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Painting by Perov 


His L ife and Art 




Copyright © 1957 by S. G. Phillips, Inc. 
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 56-6213 

Second Edition, completely Revised and Enlarged 
Second Printing, November 1965 




A REVISED edition of a book published in 1934 on a subject as 
compelling to-day as the phenomenon of Dostoevsky scarcely 
>^ requires an apology. In the last twenty years a limited amount 
of hitherto unknown material relating to the novelist's biography 
has come to light. The new data, a re-examination of some of the 
old sources, but chiefly second thoughts, have led me to recast 
many passages. One such is the account of his father's murder. 
Parts of Chapters IV lo VII have been altered and expanded with 
a view to emphasizing young Dostoevsky's responsiveness to radi- 
cal ideas. His trial as a political prisoner is here presented more 
amply. Some details have been added to the story of his involve- 
ment with Polina Suslova. Somewhat fuller treatment is accorded 
his journahstic writings, and the comment on practically all his 
major works has been thoroughly revised. The last chapter, part 
of which deals with his posthumous reputation, has been almost 
entirely rewritten. To what is said there it should be added that 
during the liberal era which dawned soon after Stalin died, in 1953, 
there was a return to greater appreciation of Dostoevsky's work. 
The seventy-fifth anniversary of his death was observed with a spate 
of notices which included quahfied eulogies of an official nature. 
While invoking Lenin's authority in calling for a critical attitude 
towards the novelist's performance, the government newspaper 
hailed him as '*one of the greatest word artists of all countries and 
peoples." The Communist Party daily claimed for his novels "a 
progressive significance in the development of Russian culture." 
A new and mammoth edition of his collected fiction was started, 
and there were indications that the Dostoevsky studies, broken oflf 
two decades previously, were to be resumed. 

What figured as Appendix I in the first edition is now a section 
of Chapter XXI; the substance of Appendix II has been incorpor- 


ated into Chapter I. A new feature is a table of important dates in 
Dostoevsky's life, which should prove useful for ready reference. 
The Bibliography has been brought up-to-date. Naturally I have 
made every effort to correct the few factual errors that crept into 
the earlier text. 

I am deeply indebted to my wife, Babette Deutsch, for her help 
in preparing both the original and the present revised work. 




Foreword to the Second Edition v 

Chronology xi 


I A Child 1 

II School Days 14 

III A Raw Youth 24 

IV This Is Fame! 36 

V A Sick Soul 52 
VI Rebellion? 63 

VII The Condemned 76 

VIII Confessions 91 

IX Buried Alive 105 

X First Love 126 

XI Travelling Standing Still 140 

XII Resurrection 150 

XIII "Revolt of the Passions'' 164 

XIV Ends and Beginnings 177 
XV Luckless Suitor 193 

XVI A Russian Tragedy 205 

XVII A Little Diamond 217 

XVIII Roulettenburg 230 

XIX The Idiot 246 



Chapter Page 

XX The Second Exile 262 

XXI A Book of Wrath 280 

XXII "The Accursed Year" 304 

XXIII The Tongue of Adolescence 315 

XXIV A Writers Diary 333 
XXV The Prophet 353 

XXVI "Hurrah for Karamazov!" 372 

XXVII "Do Not Detain Me'* 391 

XXVIII "Life Beyond Life" 400 

Bibliography 413 

Index 429 


Dostoevsky in 1872 Frontispiece 
Dostoevsky's Parents Facing page 114 

Dostoevsky in 1 847 146 

Dostoevsky in 1858 210 

Dostoevsky's First Wife 242 

Polina Suslova 306 

Dostoevsky 's Second Wife 338 

Dostoevsky in 1880 339 



EXCEPT for those relating to Dostoevsky's sojourn in Western 
Europe, the dates in this table, as throughout the book, are 
Old Style, and so, being of the nineteenth century, are twelve 
days earlier than if they were reckoned by the calendar now in 
general use. Practically all his writings first appeared in periodicals. 
The spelling of his name is a concession to Anglo-American 
usage. "Dostoyevsky" would be phonetically a closer rendering. The 
stress falls on the third syllable, though the novelist himself is said 
to have accented the second. 

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky born in Mos- 

Mother dies. 

Admitted to Military Engineering School in Peters- 

Father murdered. 

Graduates from Engineering School and is en- 
rolled in the Petersburg Corps of Engineers as a 

Retires from Government service. 
Poor Folk, published. 
The Double, published. 
First epileptic attacks? 
Imprisoned as political offender. 
Netochka Nezvanova, published. 
After all preliminaries to public execution last 
minute reprieve and announcement of actual 

Deported to Siberia in irons. 
A convict at Omsk. 
Periodic epileptic attacks begin. 
Starts military service as a private in Semipala- 

Obtains officer's commission. 
Married to Marya Dmitrievna Isayeva. 
Permitted to retire from service and leave Siberia. 
Settles in the capital. 
"The Friend of the Family," published. 
Edits Vremya and Epokha, monthlies. 

October 30, 1821 
February 27, 1837 

January, 1838 
June, 1839 

August, 1843 
October, 1844 
January, 1846 
February, 1846 
April 23, 1849 

December 22, 1849 
December 24, 1849 
Jan., 1850— Feb., 1854 

March, 1854 
October 1, 1856 
February 6, 1857 
March, 1859 
December, 1859 



The Insulted and Injured, published. 

The House of the Dead, published. 

First trip abroad. 

Intimacy with Polina Suslova. 

"Winter Notes on Summer Impressions," published. 

Foreign travel, part of the time in the company 

of Polina Suslova. 

"Notes from the Underground," published. 

Wife dies in Moscow. 

Death of his brother, Mikhail. 

Trip to Germany. 

The Gambler, published. 

Crime and Punishment, published. 

Married to Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina. 

Goes abroad with his wife. 

Daughter, Sonia, born in Geneva. 

Infant dies. 

The Idiot, published. 

Daughter, Lubov, born in Dresden. 

The Eternal Husband, published. 

Returns to Petersburg with family. 

Son, Fyodor, born. 

The Possessed, published. 

Edits Grazhdanin, a weekly. 

The Raw Youth, published. 

Son, Alexey, born. 

A Writer's Diary, published. 

Death of Alexey. 

The Brothers Karamazov, published. 

Delivers address at Pushkin Festival in Moscow. 

Dies in Petersburg. 

His widow dies at the age of 72. 

Summer, 1862 
Winter, 1862-63 

August-October, 1863 


April 15, 1864 

July 10, 1864 

Summer, 1865 



February 15, 1867 

April, 1867 

March 5, 1868 

May 24, 1868 


September 26, 1869 


July, 1871 

July 16, 1871 




August 10, 1875 

1876-77, 1880-81 

May 16, 1878 


June 8, 1880 

January 28, 1881 

June 9, 1918 



HE is held in the arms of his mother before the altar of the 
village church. She has lifted him up to receive the sacrament 
and to kiss the chalice. Suddenly a dove flies in through an 
open window, flutters a moment in the warm air fragrant with in- 
cense, and darts out through the window on the other side. He 
starts away from the chalice, crying: "A dove! A dove!" 

He is bigger now: he has turned three. Nurse has just brought 
him into the parlour to show her charge off to the company. He 
kneels, facing the icon in the corner, and before them all he says 
his bedtime prayer: "All my hope I place in thee. Mother of 
God; shelter me under thy mantle." "What a clever little boy!" 
the guests exclaim. 

Tliese were Fyodor Dostoevsky's earliest memories. They were 
of a kind natural to a child born into an Orthodox household 
established in the hallowed city of Moscow. Religious observances 
were a matter of course both to that unhappy army doctor, his 
father, and that good woman, his mother. Church attendance be- 
longed to the daily routine. The family had but a step to go, for 
a chapel, named for Saints Peter and Paul, was attached to the 
hospital, on the staff of which the father served and where they 
had their living quarters. Indeed, it was in this chapel, accustomed 
to the hasty funerals of the poor, that little Fyodor was baptized, 
on a November day, under the sponsorship of four godparents, 
one of them his mother's wealthy sister. Aunt Kumanina, who stood 
godmother to all his brothers and sisters. The children were also 
taken — and these were memorable occasions — to the great cathe- 
drals of the city and to the sanctuaries behind the red swallow- 
tail ramparts which wall in the Kremlin heights. The aged little 
churches with their glowing domes, their chimes filling the quiet 



lanes in which they nestled — the peace of these was to be shadow- 
less in remembrance. Each summer, up to the time Fedya was 
ten years old, his mother bore off her Httle flock on a long, leisurely 
pilgrimage to the shrines of the Troitzkaya Lavra. Besides pious 
memories, they brought back from the trip, which lasted nearly a 
week, toys of peasant make. It may well have been at the monas- 
tery that he saw "possessed" women exorcised at mass — a fearful 
and touching scene. Always at church the poor crowded at the 
entrance. The boy felt curiously drawn to these ragged men and 
women Vv'ho bowed so low and prayed so earnestly. 

Perhaps it was in these early years that some event deeply 
coloured by emotion came to be associated for him with the enchant- 
ment of the sunset hour. It may have been his mother holding him 
up before the icon while she prayed for the Virgin's protection, one 
still summer day as the sun was sinking. Or was it his having been 
touched, for the first time, as a child of eight, in a peculiarly inti- 
mate way by religious feeling? It was the Monday of Passion Week 
and he was at mass with his mother. The sun slanted in through 
the window and illumined the incense that was eddying upward 
toward the cupola. A young acolyte placed an enormous book on 
the lectern in the middle of the church, opened it, and read: "There 
was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man 
was perfect and upright and one that feared God and eschewed 
evil. . . ." The little boy was shaken with a strange ecstasy in which 
awe was mixed with happiness. The three thousand camels. Job 
praying for his sons because they might have sinned in their feast- 
ing, Satan talking boldly to God, the righteous man rending his 
mantle and falling down upon the ground and crying in his bereave- 
ment: "Blessed be the name of the Lord!" — all these details of 
the story took hold of his imagination and stirred him strongly. 
He was a deep child. If Job's faith touched him. Job's rebellion 
must also have had an echo in his heart. At all events, the boy 
grew into a man who was never able to read those pages without 
what he called "morbid elation." Nor was the curtain ever wholly 
to close for him upon this drama of God and man. 



The children came in two sets: Mikhail was the eldest; one year 
later, on October 30, 1821, Fyodor was born; the next year Var- 
vara came, and in 1825, the last of the elder group, Andrey. Four 
years later twin girls were born, one of whom lived only a few 
days — the children were not spared the sight of the little coffin. 
In due time there were two more additions to the family. 

Fyodor was inseparable from Mikhail, and "Little Tail,'* as they 
nicknamed Andrey, was generally allowed to tag after them. The 
band was captained by Fedya. Though not a well child, he was 
full of high spirits. 'T am not surprised, my dear, at Fedya's mis- 
chief," his mother wrote to his father, apparently in reply to 
a report about the boy's behaviour, "for that is what we have 
to expect from him." He was the inventor, the explorer, the mime. 
Whenever the family went on a trip he was in a fever. He would 
perch aloft on the coachman's box until they came to a station 
and then he would be poking his snub nose everywhere at once. 
After seeing a trapeze artist at a public entertainment play the 
part of a Brazihan ape, Fedya came home and was an ape for 
weeks. Once at a festival, he saw a runner racing with a hand- 
kerchief between his teeth, and for days afterwards he raced 
through the hospital park, a handkerchief fluttering from his mouth. 
Little encouragement as there was for it, he liked to imagine 
himself an athlete. In his eagerness, he would cheat at cards 
when, on the great holidays, especially at Christmas time, the 
family indulged in a game. The little gambler persisted in it, 
although he was invariably caught red-handed. "A perfect flame!" 
— that was how his parents spoke of this sensitive, fidgety, boister- 
ous son. 

The flame burned in a close atmosphere. The sizeable household, 
which included seven servants, was confined to an apartment of 
three rooms and a large kitchen. The nursery, a windowless alcove 
of the dark pearl grey foyer, was presided over by Alyona Frolovna, 
a mountain of a woman, who was forgiven her bulk, her prodigious 
appetite, her habit of taking snuff, because of her limitless devotion 
to the family. The living quarters were no brighter for being situ- 


ated in a wing of a charity hospital. What also clouded the air of 
home was the father's morose and irascible disposition. 

The elder Dostoevsky had made his own way and had had a 
rough road to travel, which had not sweetened his temper. His 
family had come down in the world. Its pedigree has been traced 
to a boyar who in 1 506 received a land grant which included part 
of the village of Dostoevo, in the region of Pinsk. He was probably 
descended from a Tartar chieftain who emigrated from the Golden 
Horde, so that in Dostoevsky's case, as in Turgenev's, the old adage 
about scratching a Russian holds good. In view of the novelist's 
intense animus against Poles and Catholics, it is noteworthy that 
some of the branches of the family were Polonized and embraced 
Catholicism. Others, like the one from which he stemmed, held to 
their Russian nationality and the Orthodox or Uniate faith. 

The son of a priest with a parish in a town of the province of 
Podolia, the boy had been sent to divinity school as a matter of 
course. He had not remained there, and it is said that he ran away 
from home and never spoke of his early years. It is certain that 
in 1809, at the age of twenty-one, he entered the Imperial MiHtary- 
Surgical Academy in Moscow. He was in his senior year when 
Napoleon's army invaded the country, and he was forthwith put 
to work taking care of the wounded and fighting an epidemic. He 
remained an army doctor until 1820, when he retired from the 
service, having married the daughter of a Moscow merchant, of 
pure Russian stock, the previous year, and settled down to civil 
practice, as physician in the dispensary of the Mariinsky Hospital 
for the Poor. In the parlour hung a gilt-framed pastel portrait, 
showing him in his gold-braided uniform. Fedya usually saw his 
father, however, in the black frock coat, the white vest and stock, 
which was the professional attire of a doctor, and wearing a decora- 
tion. He had the orders of Saint Anne and Saint Vladimir, which 
enabled him to regain the rank of hereditary noble (dvoryanin) 
that his forebears had lost when they became members of the 

Mikhail Andreyevich, as his associates and few friends called 
him, was a sickly, moody man, given to fretting and complaining. 
His sullenness and self-righteousness would give way to self-pity 
and self-abasement. At once sentimental and mean, he was a prey 


to jealously and groundless suspicions. When his wife was carrying 
her last child, he chided her because she was suffering from heart- 
burn — a condition she had not known in any former pregnancy. 
She gathered that the symptom had roused his mad suspicion of her 
infidelity, and for the sake of his peace of mind she solemnly swore 
that she had been faithful to the vow she had made at the altar 
sixteen years previously. It took all her tenderness to cheer him 
during his attacks of hypochondria and depression. She argued that 
they were happy in each other and in the love of their children, 
and that they had nothing more to desire, certainly not wealth. 
The children's love of their father must have been tinged with fear 
and, perhaps, resentment. Not seldom their mother or the nurse 
had to shield them from his uncontrollable rages. And, although 
he spared the rod, he was a stickler for discipline and a behever 
in hard-and-fast rules, which did not lighten the oppressive, puri- 
tanical atmosphere that he created in the home. 

The mother appears to have been a kindly, devout, not unculti- 
vated woman, with a good deal of practical sense, which she may 
have inherited from her father, the merchant, and with so delicate 
a constitution that she was able to nurse only the eldest of her child- 

Fyodor was deeply attached to his mother. "When you left us, 
beloved Maminka," he wrote, at the age of thirteen, in his earliest 
known letter, with real feeling and the scantiest punctuation, "I 
became exceedingly sad and now whenever I think of you I am 
overcome with such sadness that I can't chase it away at all if you 
knew how much I want to see you I can't wait for that joyful 
moment. Every time I think of you I pray God for your health. Let 
us know, beloved Maminka, if you have made a safe journey kiss 
Andrushenka and Verochka for me I kiss your little hands and re- 
main your obedient son F. Dostoevsky." 

As long as he lived, he kept a miniature which had belonged to 
his mother. It represented a flying angel and bore the inscription: 

J'ai le cceur tout plein d' amour, 
Quand Vaurez-vous a votre tour? 

O heart! When will you be filled with the love which alone is man's 
salvation? This was the question that Dostoevsky, overflowing 


with bitter hatred and equally bitter compassion, would never cease 
to ask. 


The day, which began early, was filled with set labours and staid 
pleasures. As soon as breakfast was over. Fedya and his brothers 
were at their lessons in the canary-coloured living-room, where the 
family also took their meals. At twelve the doctor returned from 
visiting his patients, and dinner was placed on the table at one. 
The father took his after-dinner nap of two hours in the parlour, 
with Andrey by him to chase away the flies with a freshly cut linden 
branch, and woe to the boy if he was inattentive! At four o'clock 
in the afternoon tea was served, after which the doctor went out 
again, and the family breathed somewhat more easily. The long 
winter evenings were spent by the light of tallow candles (wax 
tapers were reserved for company, lamps the doctor disliked) in 
the cobalt-blue parlour, over a volume of Karamzin's patriotic his- 
tory or a novel. If it was a romance by Ann Radcliffe, at least one 
of the listeners, thrilled with delicious horror, would dream fever- 
ishly of it afterwards. Promptly at nine o'clock the family went in to 
supper, and then the children said their prayers before the icon, bade 
their parents good-night, and so to bed. 

Rarely did Fedya's parents, by going out of an evening, release 
the spirit of boisterous fun which thrives in a large family but 
which here the father's presence tended to subdue. Visitors were 
infrequent. Among those who came to the house, mostly during 
the day, were the doctor's colleagues and, chiefly, the relatives. 
There was grandfather, who came to dinner once a week. There 
was great-uncle, a genial and cultivated old gentleman who taught 
at the University of Moscow. There was Uncle Mikhail who, like 
his sister, played the guitar, and who left one of his instruments 
at the house, so that there were duets on his regular Sunday visits. 
But his appearances ceased abruptly, for a reason that was not di- 
vulged to the children. He had tried to seduce one of the servants 
and, on being reprimanded for it in his sister's presence by the 
doctor, had spoken to her disrespectfully, whereupon the doctor 
gave him a slap which ended their relations. There were the cousins 
and the aunts, especially Aunt Kumanina, who would drive up in 


style, with a postilion in front and a footman behind to help her 
with all the packages of fruit and goodies that she would bring. 
Having no children of her own, she was all the more devoted to 
her poor sister's family, and until Fyodor was in his late teens 
played an important part in his hfe. All these relatives were on 
the mother's side, a fact that Fyodor must have noticed. 

The monotony of the daily pattern was relieved by the holy 
days, and then there was the eighth of November to prepare for: 
the solemn occasion of the father's name-day. That day the doctor 
put aside his cares, devoting it, as he claimed, first to God, his "sole 
consoler in this grievous life," and second to himself. The two 
older boys would recite their felicitations in French, after having 
handed their father the scrolls on which these were written in their 
best penmanship. The hero of the day, pleased by the performance, 
would melt, and embrace liis sons with warmth. 

Another outstanding event, impatiently awaited, was the visit of 
one of the peasant women who had acted as wet-nurses to the chil- 
dren. She would come on a winter morning and be shown into the 
parlour. After a short prayer before the icon, she would greet the 
mistress of the house and kiss the young ones, among whom she 
would distribute whey-cakes she had baked for them in her village 
home. Then, since lessons must not be interfered with, she would 
retire to the kitchen. 

She reappeared in the unlighted dining-room when dusk shrouded 
the birchwood chairs upholstered in green morocco, on each of which 
a small and eager occupant perched waiting for her stories. A 
spell lay over the hour. The silence was so complete that one 
could hear plainly the scratch of the doctor's pen as he sat in the 
next room entering prescriptions on his patients' charts. Not to dis- 
turb the parents, the nurse would talk in a whisper, spinning out, 
with a gusto no less naive than her listeners', the old stories in 
which the Fire-Bird and Bluebeard and that cunning son of a 
priest, Alyosha Popovich, played their wonderful or fearful parts. 
The more terrifying of these tales, muttered in the shadow-filled 
room, must have heightened Fedya's fear of the dark. There was, 
too, one old woman who told them stories from the Arabian Nights, 
and of course there were tales about holy men and holy places. 
Cheap editions of fairy tales, printed on coarse grey paper and 


illustrated with crude coloured pictures, lay about the nursery, so the 
children did not have to depend solely on the nurses' lore. 

One especially memorable occasion was a performance of Schil- 
ler's Robbers, which Fyodor witnessed at the age of ten. On certain 
holidays and regularly during Carnival Week, the children made 
long visits to their great-uncle, who had no offspring of his own. 
He and his wife lived on Novinsky Boulevard, near the park where 
street fairs were held, with their bands and dancing bears, clowns 
and strong men, puppet-shows and Indian knife-jugglers, "Russian 
mountains" and swings. It was nominated in the bond that he would 
be allowed to take them there, although the doctor must surely 
have considered the entertainment vulgar. 

Summer brought the young people a measure of freedom. The 
garden attached to the hospital was their natural playground. They 
were not, however, allowed to go there without a nurse or some 
other guardian — indeed, until Fyodor was sixteen he was not per- 
mitted to leave the house unaccompanied. The doctor had definite 
ideas about the proprieties. He would not let the children indulge 
in any game except "horses," handball and the use of bats being 
proscribed as dangerous and unseemly. Here and there, strolling 
along the paths or seated on the benches, were figures clad in 
loose gowns of camel-coloured wool or ticking, according to the 
weather, with white bonnets and slippers without heels. These 
were the convalescent patients, and among the many prohibitions 
that hedged in the children, none was more rigid than that which 
forbade them to address these people. Fedya could not keep him- 
self from violating this rule. The seamy side of life fascinated him 
from the beginning. 

On a fine summer evening the family would march in full force 
to a neighbouring park, which was known as Mary's Grove. As 
they passed the gates of the Alexandrovsky Institute for Girls, a 
copeck or a groat would be tossed at the feet of the sentinel who 
was standing there, gun in hand. The way led through crazy streets 
and alleys, and the doctor improved the occasion by discoursing to 
his sons on acute and obtuse angles, curves, and broken lines. Even 
when they were beyond the city limits the children had to walk 
sedately, and a scamper or a romp among the birches was out of the 


Dostoevsky's second wife remembered his having spoken of his 
"happy and placid childhood." Looking backward late in life, he 
said that, in spite of "all deviations," his parents had earnestly 
striven to be among the "best" people in the highest sense of the 
adjective. Again, he mentioned, with a flash of pride, his having 
come of "a Russian and pious family." One fancies that the actu- 
ality was not as decorous as it appears both from his remarks and 
from his brother Audrey's smug reminiscences. The fact that neither 
hide nor hair of the father's relatives was to be seen, and that no 
mention was made of them, must have given Fyodor the feeling of 
living in a lopsided family. Certainly the personality of the father 
was not conducive to an atmosphere of serene gentility. One suspects 
that as a child Fyodor looked upon things that do not belong to the 
life of "a Russian and pious family." 

I V 

The doctor's income was small, as his salary was but six hundred 
roubles a year and his private practice modest. Nevertheless, he 
was intent upon becoming the owner of a piece of land in the 
country as behooved a dvoryani'n. Real estate agents began to 
haunt the flat, and one fine summer afternoon when Fyodor was 
nine, the doctor, having taken leave of his wife and kissed the 
children, seated himself in a covered troika and drove out of town, 
to look over a bit of land with a view to purchase. Within an hour 
or two the family was dismayed to see him back again; he had for- 
gotten his passport, without which it was not permissible to travel. 
He got his papers and set off again. The incident was considered an 
evil omen, a notion that seems justified in the light of later events. 
The immediate result of the journey was that he became the owner 
of Darovoye, a village in the province of Tula, a distance of a 
hundred miles from Moscow. The acquisition was solemnized by a 
mass in the Iberian Chapel. 

The following year after Easter, the mother, accompanied by the 
older children, made the momentous journey to Darovoye, and 
took the management of the estate into her capable hands. Forth- 
with a fire razed the village to the ground; moreover, the new land- 
owners found themselves involved in litigation. To safeguard their 


interests they rounded out the property by acquiring a tiny neigh- 
bouring hamlet, which went by the name of Cheremoshna or 
Chermashnya. The entire holding cost 12,000 roubles. In the 1930's 
Darovoye became a collective farm named for Dostoevsky. 

It must have relieved the elder Dostoevsky to think that now he 
could pass on to his heirs not merely his name and his noble rank, 
but also a sizable estate and nearly one hundred "souls," i.e. male 
serfs. But the purchase put a great strain on the family resources. 
To swing it, the doctor must have spent his wife's dot and gone 
heavily into debt. After the fire at Darovoye money had to be 
advanced to the peasants to enable them to put up new huts, and 
some of the loans were never repaid. The property proved a liability 
rather than an asset. Henceforth the doctor often found himself in 
dire straits. At one time, having taken five roubles in advance on his 
salary, he had not a copeck to look for when they were spent — an 
experience with which his son Fyodor was to be painfully familiar. 
This was all the harder for the doctor to bear, as there was a streak 
of the miser in him. Like many a thwarted man, he would quibble 
over small expenses, so that his wife had to plead with him to buy 
a pencil-box for Mikhail, who seems to have been reduced to beg- 
ging from his schoolmates. In her absence, the doctor would write 
to his wife for an exact accounting of the silver left in the town 
apartment, and she would list everything meticulously, from the 
tray, the milk pitcher, and the slop basin, down to the broken 
silver tablespoon and the two battered saltcellars in the chiffonier. 
He is perturbed. He can find only five of the six spoons she men- 
tions, and the broken one is nowhere to be discovered. Perhaps she 
is mistaken; he believes he has had no more than five spoons since 
she left. As for the broken spoon, she should try to remember 
whether she hadn't locked it up elsewhere. For he keeps the keys by 
him constantly. He also wants an inventory of everything in the 
storeroom, with mention of any of his wife's dresses, blouses, and 
caps that she may have left at home. One can't be too careful with 
thievish servants about. 

When he complained of being short, as he frequently did, his 
wife replied soothingly: "Don't worry about sending me money. As 
it is, I have left you with nothing. Get along as well as you can, my 
dear. For the time being I am not in need, and should I be so, I 


hope to have some oats left to sell." She was an excellent manager, 
knew how to deal with her serfs, a rough lot who had the reputation 
of horse thieves, and so meticulous in her accountings to her hus- 
band that he described her letters as "business records." She would 
report to him that God had given them increase in the shape of a 
peasant lad and a girl as well, since a son had been born to their 
Nikita and a daughter to their Fedot; that the sow had presented 
them with five young; that the ducklings were thriving, but that the 
goslings were being depleted by the uncertain weather, and that 
only one hen was setting. 

From now on the summer was a season of release for the chil- 
dren, who spent it in the country with their mother. The doctor 
came out rarely and for short periods. The summer residence was 
the Darovoye "manor house," a four-room cottage, made of plaited 
boughs stuccoed over. The children used it chiefly as a dormitory. 
The house was surrounded by venerable lime trees under which 
they took tea, and beyond it was an orchard and a thick birch wood 
which climbed up and down ravines. Fyodor was so much attached 
to this place, with its green darkness, its steep gullies, and its silence 
broken only by the rustle of leaves underfoot and the abrupt soft 
crash of a squirrel leaping overhead, that they called it "Fedya^s 
Grove." Not that Maminka liked them to play there: she was con- 
stantly warning them about snakes and rumoured wolves. To keep 
the children occupied, she had a pond dug, where they bathed, 
fished, and boated. 

Each of the brothers had a troika, sl three-horse team, of his own, 
consisting of peasant boys and girls. They would save up part of 
their dinners and, when the meal was over, take it to the stables, 
which were located under some bush. Imitating the horse-dealers 
whom they watched at the fairs, they would look into the creatures' 
mouths, lift up their legs to examine the hoofs, and so on. Some- 
times savages, armed with bows and arrows, and fiercely feathered, 
prowled in the shadows of the lindens, and tents were pitched in the 
darkest part of the copse. Actually, there was only one tent, the 
feathers had once been worn by tame geese, and under the war 
paint the pale features of Fyodor and Little Tail were plainly visible. 
It was Mikhail who daubed the faces and even the bodies of the 
tribe, and it was Andrey who was destined to record its adventures 


in sentimental retrospect, but it was Fyodor who led them when 
they raided the enemy's stronghold in the birch wood, and indeed 
on most other occasions. When Fyodor was not chieftain, he was 
Crusoe, in a game of his own invention, with Little Tail for Man 

There was an ancient wooden chapel near the cemetery beyond 
the lime copse. Entering it one day through the door which was 
never locked, they took the icons from the shelves and formed a 
procession. Carrying the images and chanting canticles and prayers, 
they marched along as they had seen the priests do, "blessing the 

Fyodor would hang about the peasants at work and would run 
errands for them, while they would let the little master put his hand 
to the plow or hold the reins. The raw clods crumbling under the 
harrow, the uncouth figure of a peasant merging into his field, the 
tangled thatch roofing a grey hut — such elements of the rural scene 
must have found lodgment in the boy's mind. But the impressions 
that remained with him for life were rather of the folk than of the 
landscape. He was always to remember a moment of sharp panic 
and the comfort he received from one of his father's plowmen. It 
was a clear, windy August day, and he was going to the birch grove 
to gather mushrooms, when the cry of "Wolf!" tore through the 
midsummer hush. Screaming with terror, he ran straight to a peas- 
ant who was walking behind his plow. It was their serf, Marey. 

"Hearing my outcry," Dostoevsky tells the story, "he stopped 
his mare in surprise, and when I caught, on the run, the plow with 
one hand and his sleeve with the other, he noticed my fright. 'A 
wolf!' I cried out, panting. He threw up his head and looked 
around. 'Where is the wolf?' 'Shouted . . . someone just shouted: 
"A wolf!" ' I stammered. 'What are you talking about? What wolf? 
You imagined it, my boy. There aren't any wolves here,' he 
mumbled, trying to reassure me. But shivering with my whole body, 
I tightened my hold of his zipoon [coat]. I must have been very 
pale. He looked at me with an alarmed smile, apparently anxious 
for me. 'See how frightened he is — oh, oh!' he shook his head. 
'Enough, sonny. A child, eh?' He stretched out his hand and sud- 
denly stroked my cheek. 'Well, enough, sonny. Christ be with you, 
cross yourself.' But I did not cross myself; the corners of my lips 


trembled, and this seems to have struck him particularly. He gently 
stretched out his large soil-stained finger with its black nail and 
gently touched my quivering lips. 'A child!' he smiled at me with 
a long, motherly smile." The boy was at last reassured and, after 
Marey had made the sign of the cross over him, went away. 

In a sense, Dostoevsky clung to Marey's zipoon all his life. The 
People, whom he identified with the peasantry, were to him the 
vessel of grace and the source of salvation, although he may have 
had flashes of recognition that, in the words of one of his characters, 
he was placing laurel on lousy heads. 


THE DOCTOR believed that instruction could not begin too early, 
and when Fyodor was four years old he was set to learning 
his letters, literally at his mother's knee. He was not as quick 
as Mikhail, a fact of which he was made painfully conscious by the 
family's mockery. His primer was a book illustrated with quaint 
lithographs and entitled: One Hundred and Four Histories Chosen 
for the Benefit of the Youth from the Old and New Testaments, by 
Johann Hiibner, accompanied by pious reflections. The first lesson 
concludes with these reflections: the power of God is immense; the 
wisdom of God is infinite; the loving-kindness of God is ineffable. 
It was with these religious axioms that the pupil was always to be 
deeply concerned. 

Later on two tutors were called in. The deacon taught the older 
children "God's law." The card table would be opened in the living- 
room, and the four of them, together with the ecclesiastic, would 
sit at this worldly piece of furniture to recite their lessons from 
Metropolitan Filaret's Principles, which opened thus: "The one God 
worshipped in the Holy Trinity is eternal, that is. He hath neither 
beginning nor end to His Being, but always was, is, and shall be." 
Having reviewed the assigned portion of this edyfying text, the 
deacon would give the better part of his time to telling Bible stories. 
Of the flood, of Joseph and his brethren, of the Nativity, he spoke 
with so much gusto that even Maminka, who sat near by, dropped 
her knitting to listen. Did the good man ever give Fyodor the thrill 
of religious awe awakened in him by the reading from the Book of 
Job? Did he unwittingly raise in the boy the first stirrings of the 
doubt that was to torture him to the end of his days? 

Monsieur Souchard taught the children French. This emigre, 
after changing his name in an excess of patriotism to the Russian 
form of Drashusov, eventually opened a small preparatory school, 
which was attended by Fyodor and Mikhail. In one respect this 



establishment resembled Dotheboys Hall: the staff consisted of 
the members of the master's family. Since none of them had any 
Latin, that language was not in the curriculum. Dr. Dostoevsky 
took it upon himself to supply the deficiency. The lessons, which 
were given in the evening, were an ordeal. The pupils did not 
dare to sit down or even to lean against the table, but stood for 
the whole period, as Andrey remembered, "like little idols," 
spouting their declensions and conjugations. At the slightest mis- 
take the doctor would fly into a rage and call them "lazybones'* 
and "dolts." He never struck them. His worst punishment was to 
stop the lesson. 

The doctor liked to repeat that he was a poor man, and that after 
his death his boys would have to shift for themselves. He was, how- 
ever, prepared to make heavy sacrifices to provide his sons with 
the education of gentlemen. At the age of thirteen Fyodor, together 
with his inseparable companion Mikhail, was entered at Chermak's, 
one of the better boarding schools in Moscow. Instruction here was 
offered by teachers from the university, and if the curriculum was 
rather stiff, the atmosphere was homelike. The pupils took their 
meals with the headmaster and his sons, and if a boy had a sore 
throat he was dosed and coddled by Mme. Chermak. Fyodor made 
himself som.ewhat conspicuous by protecting the newcomers against 
the tyranny of the older boys. The presence of his brother must 
have contributed to his comfort. It is doubtful if he had any chums 
at school, in spite of the fact that secretly his heart hungered for 
friendship; his touchiness and sensitiveness stood between him and 
his companions. He seems to have been, in words that he used of 
another boy, "doomed to solitude," a nature flung back upon its 
"own resources and dreams." 

Every Saturday morning the doctor's carriage, driven by one 
of his serfs, went to fetch Fyodor and Mikhail home for the week- 
end. The two free days were crowded. The father, a practical- 
minded man, had the older boys give lessens to Andrey, Fyodor's 
subjects being history and the Russian language. Then there was 
church attendance. And there were always books and magazines 
about that Fyodor wanted to read. Books had been his refuge from 
the beginning. On one occasion the boys appealed to their parents 
for arbitrament as to who was the greater poet, Zhukovsky or 


Pushkin. Family readings in the evening had long been an institu- 
tion, the father and mother taking turns at the book. Mikhail, 
who was himself given to verse writing, cared more for poetry, 
and Fyodor for prose, but both had an unHmited admiration for 
Pushkin. Fyodor had a special liking for literature that took him 
away from his surroundings — the novels of Walter Scott, the plays 
of Shakespeare, or books of travel. In his daydreams — the boy in- 
dulged his fantasy — he journeyed to Italy or the East, and thought 
seriously of running away to Switzerland. 

At home he had practically no visitors. The father, besides 
being a disciplinarian, was something of a snob. One of the rea- 
sons that his sons lacked friends was that he rigidly censored their 
contacts with their contemporaries. Once or twice, it is true, the 
Dostoevskys gave an evening party for the young people, but this 
was not much of a diversion. Decidedly, the brothers lacked the 
social graces, and they had to be all but driven to the dancing 
floor. Fyodor especially had a shy and reserved manner. Only 
when he felt completely at home would he express his uncom- 
promising opinions. Tlien he would speak hotly and sharply. 
Often the doctor would be moved by his son's fiery outbursts to 
a warning which was more prophetic than either guessed: "Eh, 
Fedya, enough! You will not get off with a whole skin! Mark 
my words: you will yet wear a red cap!" He meant the cap worn by 
privates in the Siberian regiments, which were recruited partly 
from convicts who had done their term. 


And now the two elder boys were in their middle teens, and 
it was high time to begin thinking about what to make of them. 
There was no question of consulting their inclinations. It was only 
natural that the army doctor should decide upon a calling having 
to do with the army. He resolved to place them at the military 
engineering school in Petersburg, an exacting and exclusive in- 
stitution. When the decision to send them there was taken, their 
mother was far gone in consumption. The disease had developed 
rapidly. Toward the end she looked almost a stranger, not only 
because of the ravages of illness: too weak to comb her own hair 


and considering it indecent to let others do it, she had it cut. 
Mikhail and Fyodor had to part from her even earlier than they 
had feared. She died before they left. 

About the same time, in the northern capital, another death 
occurred which was a fresh blow to the two brothers. On January 
29, 1837, Pushkin died of a wound received in a duel. The news 
only reached the Dostoevsky household a month later, at the time 
of the mother's funeral. Fyodor kept repeating that if he had not 
been wearing mourning for his mother, he would have asked his 
father's permission to put on black for Pushkin. An elegy on the 
poet's death was so often on the brothers' lips that Andrey was to 
remember every word of it forty-five years later. Was it that Fyodor 
concentrated his attention on the less personal bereavement in 
order to take his mind off the deeper pain? The loss of his mother 
grieved him all the more because his relations with his father were 
not intimate and probably not happy. Now there was no one to 
stand between him and this morose and irascible parent who loved 
but was apt to antagonize his children. 

It was only meet that the orphaned boys should not leave home 
for the strange, rather terrifying and fascinating place which the 
school must have meant to them, without again visiting the shrines 
that had hallowed their childhood. Escorted by their Aunt Kuma- 
nina — for who was closer to them than she? — they made a pilgri- 
mage to Troitzkaya Lavra. There was now a sacred place for them 
nearer home: their mother's grave. The brothers had been allowed 
to select the inscription for the stone, and had chosen an epitaph 
from Karamzin: "Rest, dear dust, until the joyous morn." 

At last came the day of departure for Petersburg. It was then 
May, for they had been delayed by a stubborn affection of the throat 
that attacked Fyodor. A solemn mass was served, and the boys 
occupied their places in the kibitka, beside their father, who was 
going with them to the capital. 

It took them nearly a week, travelling, as they had to do, by 
coach, to cover the four hundred miles which separate Moscow from 
Petersburg. On their recent trip to the monastery, the boys had 
relieved the more tedious stretches by reciting verses to their aunt. 
The widower was probably not in the mood to respond gratefully 
to this sort of thing, but Mikhail pleased himself and his brother. 


on this more momentous journey, by maintaining his habit of writing 
three poems a day, while Fyodor kept composing mentally a novel 
of Venetian life. The kibitka jolted along the dust-padded road 
across a bare, monotonous landscape, but he was drifting in a 
gondola that ruffled the coloured shadow of palaces, under a proud 
sky. En route, the boys decided that on arriving in Petersburg they 
would make it their business to visit the site of Pushkin's duel, and 
also find their way to the dead poet's old quarters, to behold the 
room in which he had breathed his last. Dr. Dostoevsky had seen to 
it that his sons' heads were packed with theorems and dates as their 
luggage with necessaries, but there were things tucked away in 
Fyodor's mind of which he had little inkling. Peculiarly sensitive to 
all the mean and sordid aspects of his surroundings, the adolescent 
boy fled to an ideal world, which may have seemed nearer now 
that he was at the entrance to a new life, in a new city, among new 

Before he reached his destination, an ugly incident took him out 
of his dreams. One evening when they were all at an inn where 
they were waiting for their horses to be watered, fed, and rested, 
Fyodor, looking out of the window, saw a troika halt at the steps 
of the posting station across the street. A tall, corpulent man with 
a purple face, wearing the gaily-plumed tricorn of a military courier, 
leapt out of the vehicle and dived into the building. A moment 
later a fresh troika pulled up, and the driver, a peasant lad in a red 
shirt, carrying his coat on his arm, jumped onto the box. The courier 
came out at once and took his seat, but without giving the driver 
time to start, he rose and began striking him with his great fist. The 
lad hunched forward and lashed the middle horse with all his might. 
The team leapt ahead, but the courier was not satisfied. As long 
as Fyodor, watching greedily, could see them, he kept on beating 
the coachman, who never stopped flaying the horses. The picture, 
which with time took on a symbolic character, remained with him 

Once in Petersburg, the doctor placed his sons with a coach who 
was preparing a group of boys for entrance to the engineering school, 
and after six weeks of paternal supervision interlarded with sight- 


seeing, went back the way he had come. They never saw him again. 

Months of hard work were in store for the two brothers. In 
addition to cramming mathematics, fortfication, artillery, they had 
to study mechanical drawing and take an intensive course in mili- 
tary drill, a subject of major importance at the school. It was only 
on Saturdays and Sundays that they could snatch time to write 
home. On his return from Petersburg the doctor had retired from 
the service, given up his practice, and settled at Darovoye, taking 
with him the younger children. In one letter the drudges speak 
wistfully of the occupations that engage their brothers and sisters in 
the country. They take occasion to remind Varenka of her promise 
to study and read Karamzin, and Fyodor hopes that his quondam 
pupil, Andrusha, is not as careless of his history as he used to be. 
In the autumn it will be his turn to enter Chermak's. '*So for a long 
time yet you will have to look out for your children's education: 
you have so many of us," they tell their parent, adding with chilling 
reasonableness, "Judge for yourself, then, how earnestly we pray to 
God that He should preserve your health, which is so precious to 
us." Their joint letters home, apparently written by Mikhail, but 
signed by both, indicate interest in affairs at the farm: the crops, the 
new wing which is at last under way, and they abound in expressions 
of piety and filial regard. 

When September came, and examinations with it, they wrote 
home: "Time itself can't keep pace with us. We're always poring 
over a book." With the Lord's help, however, they hoped to come 
through. They worked harder than ever, and when they visited 
the Kazan Cathedral they did not neglect to say a prayer. Their 
industry was calculated to please their father, but he must have 
frowned over the news that in order to be presentable at the exami- 
nations, the boys had been compelled to buy new hats, at the 
shocking price of seven roubles apiece. He seems, however, to have 
been as generous as his limited means allowed, and for the time 
being the boys were in funds. 

But soon real troubles commenced. Mikhail, who had always 
been considered the stronger of the two, was turned down by the 
school doctors on the grounds of poor health. His own explanation 
was that this was a pretext, so that both brothers should not be an 
expense to the Government. And then Fyodor, who had come 


through the examinations brilliantly — indeed, practically at the head 
of the list, was assigned twelfth place because, for one thing, some 
of the boys had bribed the authorities. Fyodor had nothing with 
which to grease their palms and would have been ashamed to buy 
priority in any case. He was serving his monarch, not these grafters. 
The injustice of it galled him. To make matters worse, he was 
refused the scholarship on which his father had counted. Preference 
had been shown to boys whose fathers could better afford to pay 
tuition. What would become of them? "But,'* they wrote home, 
"the Lord will not forsake poor orphans." When Aunt Kumanina, 
on hearing the news, volunteered to pay the tuition, should her 
brother-in-law swallow his pride and permit it, Fyodor felt that his 
prayers had been answered. 

It was not until January, 1838, that he found himself a member 
of the company of conductors, as the students in the lower grades 
were called. Among other formahties he had to take an oath of 
allegiance to Emperor Nicholas I, for he was now in military uni- 
form. After some delay Mikhail entered a military school at Reval 
(now Tallin). And so Fyodor lost the companion from whom he had 
been inseparable since the beginning, just when he needed him most. 
In commenting on this misfortune, he wrote to his father that blind 
Fate played with man as with a toy, but that perhaps God ordered 
everything for the best. His circumstances at the time were not 
calculated to strengthen the latter sentiment. He was making his way 
alone in an unfamiliar, hostile world. 


There was something oppressive about the very look of the 
place: the Cyclopean walls, the huge portals flanked by obelisks, the 
vast chambers massive with bronze and marble, the chilly statues 
and sombre historical canvases, the granite stairways leading to 
long draughty corridors. The school was housed in that cross be- 
tween a palace and a fortress which the mad Paul had built for 
himself, and in which he had met his violent death. It was said that 
ore of the oval rooms had been the scene of weird rites, performed 
in secret by an outlawed mystic sect, which in the early part of the 
century was fashionable in high places. The boys doubtless pointed 


out to newcomers the hidden passages, the secret staircases, the 
chambers where the throne had once stood, where the emperor 
had dined, and the one where, it was whispered, he had been 
strangled one night by one of his own courtiers. 

A harsh spirit governed the school. The boys could expect no 
leniency here. In addition to the academic work, there were lessons 
in singing, dancing, and fencing, as well as sentry duty and the 
eternal drill. It was only during the summer, when the students 
went camping as part of the training-course, that there was some 
relief from the routine. The boys lived in tents pitched just out- 
side Peterhof (now Petrodvoretz), the old imperial residence. The 
constant drill was hateful to Fyodor, and the out-of-door Hfe bored 
him then as it always would, but at least the absence of classes 
allowed more leisure for reading. It was natural that there should be 
martinets among the instructors. When the bayonets quivered be- 
cause the class faced the sun and was dazzled, one drill sergeant 
would shout in a rage: "Attention! Never mind the sun! There is no 
sun on parade!" During his first term Fyodor had to take part in 
five parades within three months, all of them reviewed by the Grand 
Duke Michael and the Tsar. May was marked by the agony of the 
gala parade reviewed by the entire Imperial family. Since the Polish 
insurrection of 1831, which had revealed Russia's need for forti- 
fications, the emperor had taken particular interest in military engi- 
neering, and he had kept a fond eye upon the school, which res- 
ponded to his frequent visits with every mark of fervent devotion. 

The strict discipHne and the strenuous work were perhaps less 
hard for a sensitive boy to bear than the conscienceless cruelty and 
the rigid conventions of his schoolfellows. In the first letter Fyodor 
wrote home after he entered school he said that he was beginning 
to get used to the routine, but that he could say nothing good 
about his companions. A newcomer, who was contemptuously re- 
ferred to as a "hazel hen,'' was victimized as a matter of course. 
He was subject to a protracted hazing process. The unfortunate 
would undergo severe beatings and when he was ready to creep 
into his bed, might find it flooded. He would be required to lick 
up ink, and if he gave signs of squeamishness would be forced to 
repeat obscenities. A hazel hen would suffer in silence, for com- 
plaint rendered him a pariah. An immemorial feud raged between 


the upper and the lower classmen. On one historic occasion, a mem- 
ber of the senior class considering himself slighted by a younger 
boy. there was a fight, in the course of which some youths ran 
for their rifles. The commander of the company checked hostihties 
before the guns were brought into action, and assembling the whole 
contingent and lining them up, commanded reconciliation by shout- 
ing the order: "Kiss to the right! Kiss to the left!'* It was only in 
such extraordinary cases as this that the authorities intervened. 
During Fyodor's second year at school there occurred a mysterious 
scandal, so grave that several of his companions were demoted, 
and for a time all out-going letters were censored. 

The hazel hen who answered to the name of Dostoevsky, a pale 
boy with freckles on his snub nose and an inward look in his small 
deep-set grey eyes, wore the military uniform of a conductor as 
though it were a misfit. And indeed, in this training-school for 
builders of fortresses, he was a misfit. Not that the raw-skinned 
daydreamer was a softy. There was a strength in him that his 
fellows respected in spite of themselves. But he did not join in 
the fun, and for the most part kept his own company. He formed 
the habit — which was to last his lifetime — of working late into the 
night, long after everyone else in the house was asleep. A proctor 
making his rounds would notice a lonely blanketed figure hunched 
over a desk beside a draughty window in the light of a single tallow 
candle. The quiet, the half -darkness, he would explain, disposed him 
toward work. He impressed his schoolmates as a solitary, who 
never laughed and seldom spoke, who would be customarily seen 
carrying his equipment as though it were a martyr's irons, and strid- 
ing along in his jerky fashion, with a concentrated stare. They nick- 
named him "Photius" after the fanatical archimandrite who ruled 
Alexander I, or perhaps after the Byzantine patriarch who cham- 
pioned the Eastern Church, and twitted the pale, retiring boy with 
being "a mystic or idealist." 

He was good in all the academic subjects, except mechanical 
drawing, of which there were four kinds, but he did not get on 
with his teachers as well as he might have, at least in the begin- 
ning. When the first year was over, he found that he had not been 
promoted, in spite of the fact that by his own account he had passed 
the examinations with flying colours. He blamed this misfortune on 


certain teachers who, he believed, had held his rudeness against 
him. He took the blow so hard that he was ill in bed for several 
days. Another whole year to be spent in this beastly class! That 
he should be left behind, while, through favouritism, nonentities 
were advanced! O meanness of man! O harshness of Heaven! Such 
was the tone of his reflections on the event. "Oh, God," he wrote 
in a letter to his father on October 30, 1838, *'what have I done to 
bring down Your wrath upon me? Why do You not send me Your 
grace, that I might rejoice the tenderest of parents? Oh, how many 
tears this has cost me! I felt sick when I heard the news." He goes 
on to beg his father not to take it to heart. This by no means implies 
that he will be expelled. Surely, he is not altogether lacking in 
ability! In writing to Mikhail he confesses that in his mortfication 
he wanted to crush the world with one blow. Never before had he 
known what it meant to have his amour-propre injured. When he 
said this, he was forgetting the previous occasions on which his 
self-esteem had been wounded. His relations with his teachers im- 
proved with time, but the taste of humiliation remained. 

Mikhail, too, wrote home in an effort to comfort his father and 
perhaps to shield Fyodor from paternal wrath. The doctor indeed 
needed solace: on getting the bad news he had collapsed and only 
a copious bleeding had saved him, he believed, from a fatal stroke. 
By way of balm Mikhail offered such reflections as that whom the 
Lx)rd loveth He chasteneth, that, conversely, "all these physical 
joys and all this filthy happiness in which the heart and the mind lie 
swaddled in a pitiful stupor are merely the mockery of Fate ..." 
and that "in misfortune man becomes more man and thereby nearer 
to the Divine Ideal." In thus exalting the virtues of suffering Mik- 
hail sounded a note which was to become a major motif in his 
brother's thinking. 



AT school Fyodor lived in a turmoil of thought and emotion, 
L\ dominated less by the adolescent's ecstacy than by the ado- 
1 \.lescent's despair. '1 don't know if my sad thoughts will ever 
cease.*' he writes to his brother the first summer. "It seems to me 
that the world has taken on a negative meaning." The idea of suicide 
is not far from his mind: "To see nothing but the hard shell under 
which the universe languishes, to know that one explosion of the 
will is enough to break it and allow one to merge with eternity, to 
know this and yet live on like the lowest of creatures — how terrible! 
How faint-hearted man is! Hamlet! Hamlet! When I think of 
his wild, tempestuous speeches in which resounds the groaning of a 
numbed world, then ... my soul is so oppressed by sorrow that 
she fears to fathom it lest she turns and rend herself." A postscript 
to the letter suggests a singular way of escaping from responsibilities 
and harassments: "I have a project: to go mad. Let people rage, 
let them doctor me, let them try to restore me to sanity." 

As time goes on, he does not cease to indulge himself in this 
melancholy mood. "Brother," he writes in the autumn, "it is sad 
to live without hope." The present depresses him, the future horri- 
fies. He is breathing a chill, sunless air. Often his state is that of 
the Prisoner of Chillon after the death of his brother: 

/ had no thoughts, no feeling — none — 
Among the stones I stood, a stone. ... 

It is a long time since he has known "an explosion of inspiration." 
He is not visited any more by "poetry, the bird of paradise." His 
dreams have abandoned him, and "the marvellous arabesques" 
that his fancy used to trace "have shed their gilt." The thoughts that 
used to kindle his soul have lost their heat. 

Again he breaks off his complaints to plunge into muddled philo- 



sophizing. MikhaiFs remark to the effect that to know more, one 
must feel less, is dismissed by his brother as '^delirium of the heart." 
Love, the soul. Nature, God, can only be known, he insists, through 
the heart, not through the intellect, which is a "material faculty," a 
machine set into motion by *'the spirit's fire.'* Thought generates 
in the spirit. Thoughts are whispered to the spirit by the heart. 
Philosophy is not merely an equation in which Nature is the un- 
known quantity. It is poetry that apprehends the ultimate, which 
is the proper object of philosophy. Fyodor would have his brother 
know that poetic and philosophic ecstasy are the same, and philo- 
sophy is but the highest degree of poetry. Some of these anti- 
rationalist notions, fragments of a romantic system of ideas, will 
be the anchorage of his mature thinking. 

He had few companions to whom he could open his heart as 
he did to Mikhail. Only three or four of his schoolmates fell under 
his influence. Yet if he was backward at forming personal relation- 
ships, he attached himself with violence to those friends whom he 
made. He knew the transports of friendship as celebrated by the 
romantics. One object of his amical passion was a striking young 
man five years his senior, whom he had first met at the inn where 
they stopped on arriving in Petersburg. During the weeks of tutoring, 
after their father had left them, this Ivan Shidlovsky had been in the 
habit of visiting the brothers every Sunday, looking after them like 
a fond relative, and accompanying them to church. When he was 
alone, Fyodor clung the more closely to the companionable youth. 
Of a winter evening he would make his way through the snowy 
streets to the humble lodging of his friend, and they would spend 
exquisitely melancholy hours together. The spirituality of Shid- 
lovsky, his sensuousness, his literary talent — he wrote poems ex- 
pressing the desire to govern the universe and gossip with God — his 
golden tongue, his ready tears, his easy ecstasies, his sufferings 
as a victim of unrequited love — everything about this tall, ascetic- 
looking youth enchanted the lonely boy. Here was "the proper 
image of a man," such as Shakespeare and Schiller had painted. 

Shidlovsky was also friendly toward Mikhail, with whom he 
exchanged fervent letters. In one of them he explained that he 
loved his correspondent, firstly, as a confidant, and secondly, as a 
poet with a serene view of the world. His own view, at least at 


the moment of writing, was that "God is good, or He would not 
be God, that the universe is the visible, palpable beauty of this 
goodness, and that their essential identity is truth." On another 
occasion he told Mikhail that he envisioned the laurels awaiting 
him, in the same breath invoking Werther and Chatterton, and 
declaring that the bottom of the Fontanka Canal beckoned to him 
as the nuptial bed beckons the bridegroom. "Ach, why weren't you 
with us?" Fyodor wrote to his brother on New Year's Day, 1840, 
as he counted over the precious memories of the past year, in which 
Shidlovsky loomed so large. "I remember how tears flowed from 
his eyes as he read your poems. He knows them by heart." During 
the summer Fyodor saw little of this comrade, who was making 
ready to leave the capital. They spent their last evening together 
walking the streets of a Petersburg suburb, recalling the past winter, 
which had been peopled by the shades of Homer and Schiller, and 
discoursing of Mikhail, of themselves, of the future. 

Then Shidlovsky stepped out of Dostoevsky's life, but not out 
of his memory. He had strengthened his young friend's notion 
that writing was the only worthy occupation, since it furnished an 
avenue of escape from sordid reality. Years later this odd fellow 
entered a monastery, but soon retired to his estate without taking 
off his cassock, and divided his time between drunken orgies and 
fits of piety. He would be seen preaching the Gospel to a crowd 
of awestruck peasants near a tavern, and he made pilgrimages to 
various shrines, but in the end the bishop forbade him entrance to 
the monastries on the ground that he corrupted the monks. 

Shortly after he became intimate with Shidlovsky, Fyodor found 
himself involved in another violent friendship, which he surrounded 
with mystery, perhaps because he considered it too precious to 
expose to vulgar comment. It seems to have consumed itself briefly 
and intensely upon a plane where life merged into literature. In his 
letter of New Year's Day he was telling Mikhail: "I had a comrade 
with me, a creature whom I loved so much! You wrote me, brother, 
that I hadn't read Schiller. You are mistaken! I learned Schiller by 
heart, I talked him, I dreamed him, and I think that Fate has 
done nothing more fitting for me than to let me know the great 
poet at just this period of my life: at no other time could I have 
responded to him so fully. Reading Schiller with him, I verified by 


him the noble, ardent Don Carlos, the Marquis Posa, and Mortimer. 
This friendship brought me so much sorrow and joy! Now I shall 
be silent about it eternally. But Schiller's name became for me a 
cherished, magic sound, calling up many reveries; they are bitter, 
brother; that is why I said nothing to you about Schiller! ... I am 
pained when I hear his name." 

This friend, he confessed, had been closer to him than Mikhail, 
for whom, he went on, he had never had any real brotherly feehng, 
although he loved him for his verse, the poetry of his life, and his 
misfortunes. But in the same breath he laid balm to Mikhail's 
soul by enlarging on the joy that a letter from him brought with it. 
When one arrived, he looked at it, turned it over in his hand for a 
minute or two, fingered it to find out how ample it was, and then, 
having thoroughly examined the envelope, he put it in his pocket un- 
opened, and spent a "voluptuous" quarter of an hour before he 
eagerly picked the treasure's lock, a way he was to have with 
precious letters. 

The mysterious friend vanished, to be heard of no more. Mik- 
hail remained. Whatever he may have felt about Fy odor's tem- 
porary disaffection, he must have warmed to the praise of Schiller. 
He had himself once written to their father: *'Let them take every- 
thing from me, let them leave me naked, but give me Schiller, 
and I shall forget the whole world." Dostoevsky was ultimately to 
revolt against Schilleresque idealism, and yet something of it always 
remained with him. 

There were other authors whom he was reading with enthusiasm, 
and both brothers took their literary opinions sufficiently to heart 
to quarrel over them seriously. The first season at camp Fyodor 
read prodigiously. He devoured, among other things, the whole of 
that weird fantast, Amadeus Hoffmann, almost all of Balzac, 
Goethe's Faust, as well as his lyrical poems, and a great deal of Hugo. 
He dipped with equal relish into the older writers and into current 
books, nor did he neglect native authors. His enthusiasm is as vio- 
lent as his taste is eclectic. He prizes highly The Confessions of an 
English Opium Eater. Of Balzac he exclaims: "His characters were 
created by the intelligence of the universe. Not the spirit of an age, 
but the struggle of millenniums has prepared for such a denouement 
in the soul of man." Both Hugo and Racine command his admira- 


tion. Phedre is the quintessence of truth and poetry: it matters little 
that this Shakespearian theme is executed "in plaster-of -Paris rather 
than in marble." As for Corneille, he is "almost a Shakespeare." 
Only offended angels speak as Auguste does in Cinna. "Have you 
read Le Cid?" he asks his brother, who had dared to disparage the 
French classics. "Read him, you wretch, and lie in the dust before 

He was studying life at secondhand, through literature. Yet 
already it was clear to him that his true pursuit was not the build- 
ing of fortresses, but "the meaning of man and of life." He was, 
he wrote Mikhail, making sufficient headway with this study, since 
he was spending his best hours with the greatest writers "freely 
and happily." For all his moodiness, he had moments of serenity 
and full self-confidence. In one of these moments he wrote to his 
brother: "Man is a mystery. It must be unravelled, and if you give 
your life to the task, do not say that you have wasted it; I devote 
myself to this mystery because I wish to be a man." 


In addition to his metaphysical ache, and the difficulty of ad- 
justment to the uncongenial environment, there was another hard- 
ship that beset the raw youth. From the beginning of his stay at 
school he felt the pinch of penury, which was to fret him prac- 
tically to the end of his days. At home he had done without pocket 
money because, in his father's opinion, a gentleman's son required 
none. Living as he now did in a boarding school, his needs were 
nominally provided for. Yet there were all kinds of demands on 
his purse. When a review was in prospect the boys, most of whom 
came from well-to-do families, bought new apparel, and he had to 
do likewise or risk being remarked by the emperor. And then 
there were paints and brushes to be got, and the French circulat- 
ing library — he simply must join it. On October 30, 1838, he was 
writing home: "Send me something without delay. You will pull 
me out of hell. Oh, how terrible it is to be in this extremity!" Such 
modest sums as he received, he found hard to keep. Money burnt 
a hole in his pocket, and being frequently without a groat, he fell 
into the habit of borrowing. The unseemly situation was calculated 
to wound his pride deeply. He borrowed to pay the priest's fee when 


he took communion. He borrowed the price of a stamp, to send a 
letter to his father, and sometimes he had to enclose a missive to 
Mikhail with that of a friend. Soon he was in debt to the tune of 
fifty roubles. "Save me," he wrote to his father. "Send me sixty 
roubles. . . . My God, I know that we are poor. But Heaven is my 
witness, I do not demand anything excessive." 

Two months later he repeated the same cry, which was to sound 
in his letters to relatives and friends so often throughout the years 
to come. "I have a head, I have hands," he tells his father. "If 
I were free and thrown upon my own resources, I would not ask 
a copeck from you. I would put up with iron poverty." He recog- 
nizes that the parents' want "must be fully shared by their chil- 
dren." But he is in the service, and, as he says plainly, must either 
conform to the standards of his fellows or be outlawed. Camp 
opens early in June, and that means extraordinary expenses. He 
is willing to forego tea and sugar, although if one has to spend 
hours in a canvas tent in the rain, or when one comes in from prac- 
tice tired and cold, these are no luxuries. Indeed, the previous year 
at camp he had been taken ill for want of them. But what he must 
have is two pairs of plain boots, since the Government does not 
supply enough, and a chest in which to keep his belongings, par- 
ticularly books. "For how," he adds, "how can I pass the time 
without books?" Moreover, the tent holds only cots: bundles of 
straw, covered with sheeting, and so the orderly must be paid to 
find a place for the chest. Nor can he be expected to do without 
boot-blacking, and such things as writing paper and stamps, and 
all that costs something. He requires at least twenty-five roubles, 
besides the fifteen he has on hand. "And so send me this sum by 
the first of June," he writes, "if you wish to help your son in his 
terrible need. I dare not demand; I am not asking too much, but 
my gratitude will be boundless." Fyodor was perhaps moved less 
by actual need than by a fear of being looked down upon by his 
more prosperous companions. At least one of his schoolmates man- 
aged without any tea of his own, since the school provided tea 
morning and evening, without extra boots, being content with what 
the Government supplied, and without a chest, although he claimed 
to be as great a reader as Dostoevsky. 

The doctor, who had no way of checking his son's statements, in 


reply to his pitiful plea pointed out that he had had a succession 
of ruinous seasons on the farm: after a long and bitter winter, 
during which they had had to sacrifice the very thatch on the roofs 
to keep the cattle from starving, there had been a spring drought 
which spelled famine; further, he hadn't ordered a new suit of 
clothes in four years, and was without a groat. Nevertheless, he 
enclosed a remittance for ten roubles more than his son had re- 

This was the last letter that Fyodor received from his father. 
Wrapped up in his own troubles, he probably knew little of what 
was going on at home, or of how wretched an existence the widower 
had been leading since his retirement. Living alone on the farm, 
without his customary occupations and contacts, he rapidly went 
to pieces. Like thousands of isolated provincial gentlefolk, he tried 
to drown his loneliness in his cups, and, for want of better company 
took one of the servants for his mistress. His old fits of rage came 
upon him more frequendy and with greater violence. It is vaguely 
reported that he suffered from peculiar seizures. He would be heard 
talking aloud to his dead wife. As time went on he was practically 
never sober, and behaved like one half mad. 

One June day, a fortnight after having written to Fyodor, he was 
killed by his Chermashnya serfs. The identity of the murderers 
was known to the local peasantry and even to the priest. Neverthe- 
less, there was no trial. It is said that the Moscow relatives, arriving 
on the scene, easily learned the true story, but succeeded in per- 
suading the police to see the death as the result of apoplexy. Since 
a number of men were involved, bringing the culprits to justice 
would have meant sending them all to Siberia. The family argued 
that this would only result, on the one hand, in the loss of so many 
workers to the heirs, and, on the other, in a blot on the family 
scutcheon. In any event, the scandal was hushed up so carefully 
that no breath of it reached the general ear until over eighty years 
after the tragedy. 

Under these circumstances gossip, embroidering upon rumour, 
gave rise to several versions of the way in which the doctor had met 
his death. According to one, his anger had been roused as he was 
inspecting the work that some of his Chermashnya serfs were doing 
in an outlying field, and he let loose on them. One of the peasants 


answered him impudently and then, in fear of a flogging, rushed 
upon the master and with the help of his fellows did him in. It was 
said that for two days the body lay at the mercy of the weather and 
the crows. Another version has it that the murder was a premeditated 
one, in which over a dozen men, practically the entire male popu- 
lation of Chermashnya, took part. Dostoevsky's daughter reported 
that her grandfather had been suffocated by his coachman with his 
own carriage cushions. But though the tale varies, the fact is left 
in no doubt that it was one of those acts of vengeance against a 
brutal master which were ominously on the increase at the time. 
Long years afterwards, his ugly disposition was still remembered 
by the old inhabitants and contrasted with his wife's kindness. One 
aged peasant, upon being told that Fyodor Dostoevsky had become 
famous, observed that it could not be irue that he was a great man: 
from such a one as his father nothing good could come. 

Fyodor seems to have been the first to learn the dreadful news 
He passed it on to Mikhail. Afterwards Mikhail recalled that on 
the night of June 8, apparently the fatal date, he had seen his father 
in a dream sitting at his desk, his hair all white, and that looking 
at him thus, he became so sad that he began to cry, and then went 
over and kissed his father without being noticed. He had waked 
with fear in his heart. Fyodor wrote to Mikhail "that he had shed 
many tears over their father's death. Oddly enough he went on to 
speak of his hopes, his faith in the future and in himself, his grow- 
ing sense of being at peace with the world, his freedom from the 
tumult that had agitated his soul: now everything in it is calm, as in 
the heart of a man who hides a deep secret." One gets the curious im- 
pression that the tragedy was in the nature of a release for the boy. 

As a grown man Dostoevsky is said to have disliked speaking 
of his father. One can only speculate upon what was his feeling for 
him, or rather upon what was his attitude toward the father image 
in the early years. Perhaps it is here that one must look for the 
matrix of that emotional ambivalence, the love-hate motif, which 
he eventually erected into the law of the heart. His letters home 
were few and far between — he was always pleading the pressure 
of work. At least once he expressed his attachment in emphatic 
terms, but with an emphasis that rings false: "My God, how long 
it is since I last wrote, how long it is since I tasted those moments 


of true, cordial bliss, true, pure, exalted . . . bliss which is experi- 
enced only by those who have someone with whom to share tiie 
hours of rapture and sorrow, who have someone in whom to con- 
fide all that goes on in their hearts! Oh, how greedily I now drink 
in this bhss!" There is no doubt, however, that occasionally Fyodor 
had been filled with pitying tenderness for the unhappy, hysterical, 
narrow-minded, spasmodically generous man who was his father. 
*'I am sorry for our poor father!" he had once written to Mikhail. 
"A strange character! How many misfortunes he has sustained! It 
is bitter, even to tears, that there is nothing to console him with. 
And do you know, Papasha completely lacks knowledge of the 
world. . . . But he is deeply disappointed in it — this seems to be our 
common lot." A son who thus compassionated the living surely 
felt a greater pity for the dead. In any event, the eighteen-year-old 
Hamlet must have brooded long over the murder, a murder hedged 
about with secrecy and unavenged. One suspects that he carried the 
scar of the crime to the end of his days. 

And now what was to become of the family? Of the seven chil- 
dren, at least five still needed parental care. Mikhail conceived the 
idea of settling in the country and bringing up his brothers and 
sisters, and Fyodor applauded this generous impulse. It remained 
however, a pious wish. Mikhail stayed on at Reval where, as he 
had written his brother, he was "plucking the flowers of love," 
the reference being doubtless to his infatuation with Emilia Ditmar, 
who was, before long, to become his wife. Meanwhile, there was 
the matter of guardianship to be decided immediately. Mikhail 
begged the Kumanins to undertake this responsibility, but although 
they were ready to do a good deal for the children, particularly 
the younger ones, they declined, and eventually the office was 
entrusted to Varvara's newly acquired husband. This Piotr Karepin, 
to whom the Kumanins had been at pains to marry off the eldest 
of the Dostoevsky girls, was a substantial citizen in the Govern- 
ment service in Moscow. He was a widower, already past forty, 
while his bride was a girl of seventeen. Although Fyodor, being 
away at school, was not present at the wedding, the marriage, with 
the grave discrepancy in the ages of the couple, seems to have 
made a shocking impression upon him. 



Fyodor spent, or, as he would have said, wasted, more than five 
years at the Engineering School. He never really managed to make 
an adjustment, and at the end of his stay there he was much the 
same retiring, self-absorbed daydreamer that he had been at the 
beginning. His mind was of the sort that could draw but small sus- 
tenance from the scientific subjects which prevailed in the curricu- 
lum. Mathematics he could not bear. It was a subject so useless, 
he had once written to his father, that it was positively foolish to 
study it. It was a mere soap bubble. His school record was good 
on the whole. He cursed and crammed — and passed. But in the 
end all this laboriously acquired information dropped away from 
him as water rolls off a duck's back. The chief effect of his train- 
ing seems to have been to cultivate in him a distaste for the sciences. 
His abilities as a military engineer may be gauged by the fact that 
at the final examination he is said to have submitted a plan for a 
fortress without providing for gates. The friend who tells the story 
says that the emperor's scrawled comment: "What fool did this?'* 
so rankled in Dostoevsky that he finally decided to leave the service. 

As time went on he chafed more and more under the yoke of 
his uncongenial duties. He had been at school less than two years 
when he wrote to Mikhail that his sole aim was to be free. He was 
depressed by the thought that he was engaged in work unworthy 
of him. "How sad life is, and how burdensome its moments," he 
reflected, "when . . . you feel that the soul's flame is being beaten 
down and extinguished by God knows what; when the heart is be- 
ing torn to shreds — and why? Because of a life worthy of a pygmy 
rather than of a giant, of a child, not of a man." In his isolation, 
he told his brother, he had grown brutish. Left alone after a brief 
visit from Mikhail (he came in January, 1841, to take examinations 
for promotion to oflScer's rank), Fyodor was plunged into deeper de- 
spondency. He had nothing to hope for except that he might win a 
million roubles. The gambler's demon was already at his elbow. 

Now and then, however, he was filled with the prescience of 
limitless power. The future was his. There was a kind of fire in his 
soul, in which he firmly believed. Freedom — that was the thmg! — 


freedom and one's calling! The mere thought of such happiness 
made his soul expand, allowing it to grasp the greatness of hfe. 
He approached this longed-for freedom when, in August, 1841. 
he was promoted to the upper section of the school, known as the 
Engineering Academy, and therewith received the rank of ensign. 

As a commissioned officer he could have his lodgings outside 
the school and taste something of independence. There were now 
many afternoon hours to devote to reading and — what was perhaps 
more necessary to him — writing. It is certain that he had obeyed 
the literary impulse even while he was still an inmate of the school. 
At least some of those nocturnal hours that he spent wrapped up 
in his blanket beside his candle must have been given to setting 
his fancies down on paper. Although he shared Mikhail's passion 
for poetry, he did not try his hand at verse, lacking, according to 
one friend, the requisite patience. When Mikhail, having taken 
his examinations, was leaving Petersburg, Fyodor gave a farewell 
party at which he read passages from his plays: Maria Stuart and 
Boris Godunov. He was still at work on the first-named play in 
1842, attracted to the subject both by his passion for Schiller and 
because he had seen Lily Loewe in the title-role of the German 
drama. Nothing of these early efforts has been preserved. 

In the autumn of the first year that Fyodor was living in his 
own quarters, Andrey came from Moscow to stay with him and be 
tutored by him for entrance examinations to the school. He found 
Fyodor sharing a gloomy apartment of two rooms with a school- 
mate, Adolf Todleben. Eventually the two brothers set up house- 
keeping together in a roomier flat. Here some of Fyodor's friends 
would drop in after dinner, and the evening would often end with 
a card game, played for such stakes as they could afford, and much 
relished by Fyodor. There were other amusements, too, in the form 
of the theatre, the ballet, and concerts by such artists as Liszt and 
Rubini. The small allowance he received from the family guardian 
was of course inadequate, and as usual he was frequently reduced 
to borrowing. His creditors included Andrey, who was getting an 
occasional remittance from the Kumanins. Nevertheless, he man- 
aged to send a respectable sum to Mikhail when, early in 1842, 
at the age of twenty-one, that impecunious if enterprising young 
man married his Emilia. That year Fyodor passed his examinations 


successfully, and was promoted to the rank of sub-lieutenant, next 
above that of ensign. The school rated him as very zealous in the 
service, good as regards his mental capacities, his morals, and the 
care of his equipment, and proficient in "God's law'* and the art of 
laying mines, among a score of other subjects. 

Now there was only one more year of this drudgery. There was 
little but the hope of speedy release to distinguish it from the pre- 
ceding years. One change was the absence of Audrey, who, having 
been admitted to the School of Architecture, was living at the dor- 
mitories. The petty, matter-of-fact person that his younger brother 
had turned out to be was no companion for Fyodor, and he was 
rather relieved to be free of him. As for the rest, there were the 
same dull classes, the same worries over making both ends meet. 
He had a remarkable faculty for getting rid of money. It almost 
seemed as though he were striving for the penury that he found so 
distressing. His health was rather poor and, whether out of careless- 
ness or despondency, he refused to take care of it. Books were as 
ever his meat and drink. The year brought him at least one new 
book that was to prove a source of endless interest and delight. It 
was Gogol's Dead Souls. Here was the Human Comedy in Russian 
terms and, moreover, a work that to the discerning eye held promise 
of being the preface to a Divine Comedy. 

Dostoevsky marked the great occasion of the passing of his finals 
in June with a dinner in the private room of a fashionable restau- 
rant. In spite of the wine and a piano, the night was probably less 
festive than he could have wished, for he had dragged the friend 
who was his sole guest out of a sick-bed to help him celebrate the 
end of his servitude. The following day he set off for Reval to visit 
Mikhail. His month's leave over, he returned to Petersburg, carry- 
ing with him a complete wardrobe, including linen, such things 
being cheap in the prosperous Baltic city. He may also have taken 
back with him the distaste for everything German which was one 
of his many pet prejudices. He was within two months of his twenty- 
second birthday when, in August, 1843, he graduated, and forth- 
witli entered the Government service as a draughtsman in the 
Petersburg Engineering Corps. 


HE did not intend to follow the profession for which he was 
trained. Literature, not military engineering, was to be his 
life-work. And yet there he was, stuck in the service. His 
circumstances were as uncertain as ever, in spite of the fact that 
now, being a draughtsman in government employ, he had a small 
salary in addition to the income from the estate. Part of the winter 
he shared living quarters with a friend, a physician by the name of 
Riesenkampf. Mikhail had made the arrangement in the hope that 
the orderly German would have a steadying influence on his brother. 
The association did not last and failed of the desired effect. 

As before, Dostoevsky lived from hand to mouth. The arrival of 
money from home — Moscow was still that to him in a vague way — 
was a great event. His voice gained assurance, his step became 
jaunty. He paid his creditors, he feasted, he tried his luck at billiards 
and cards. But a brief day or two of riotous Hving saw him back 
again on a diet of bread and milk got on credit or paid for with 
money borrowed from friends and usurers. He was plagued not so 
much by lack of money as by inability to spend it sensibly. 

It may have been at this time that he became so intimately 
acquainted with the shabby taverns of the city and noted, as he 
never noted the details of the natural scene, such smells and sounds 
as the reek of burnt fat and greasy napkins, the stuttering air from 
Lucia, the shouts for the waiters, the clicking of billiard balls, the 
songless nightingale pecking at the bottom of its cage. 

Dostoevsky had long ago conceived the notion of giving up his 
share of the inheritance in exchange for a lump sum, but the guard- 
ian would not hear of it. Sometimes a few of his roubles found their 
way into the pockets of the doctor's patients who were mostly 
poor folk. Dostoevsky was attracted to them much as he had been 
to the inmates of the charity hospital where he had hved as a child 



He hung around the waiting-room. He drew them out over a cup 
of tea. He studied them. He sank himself in the pinched, warped 
lives of the penniless and ailing. Here was the stuff for his pen. 

For himself, he was not content to remain poor. He was full of 
grand money-making schemes, half commercial, half literary. In 
collaboration with Mikhail and a friend he would translate a thriller 
by Eugene Sue, publish it on his own, and reap a profit of four 
thousand roubles. Or they would get rich by issuing a complete 
Russian Schiller. There must be a pubhc for these sublime writings! 
Then there were George Sand and Balzac to translate. He hoped 
to get at least one hundred roubles for his version of Eugenie 
Grartdet, but he had no cash with which to pay for the copying of 
the manuscript. If only Mikhail would lend him ten roubles for the 
purpose: he swore by Olympus, by his just finished play, by his 
future moustache, that his brother would get half of the proceeds. 
One could so easily fail to hook a fortune for want of a few roubles' 
bait. Eventually this translation found a place in a magazine, the 
others all coming to nothing. Still, translation seemed a road to 
ease. Mikhail must go on with Schiller. Don Carlos, issued on their 
own with an introduction by him and a poem to the dramatist by 
Mikhail, was bound to be a hit. And then there was money in writ- 
ing plays. Why not toss off a popular melodrama? But no, pot- 
boilers be damned! He would write only what was worth writing, 
and that as well as he could. 

The service was as distasteful to him as school had been. It was, 
indeed, intolerable. He compared it to a diet of potatoes. He had 
endured only eight months of it when he spoke of retirement as a 
foregone conclusion, and indeed before long tendered his resigna- 
tion. Why, he argued, waste one's best years? Besides, he was being 
assigned to a post in the provinces. And what on earth would he 
do without Petersburg? How he was to make a living did not worry 
him. He would find a crust of bread somehow. 

The step he had taken deprived him at once of a dignified posi- 
tion with a chance of advancement, and of a salary which, though 
small, was steady. He knew that he would have to justify himself 
in the eyes of the Moscow relatives, particularly his brother-in-law 
who, as guardian, held the purse strings. In the letter that he ad- 
dressed to Karepin ten days after he had sent in his resignation. 


he said that he had been forced to resign because of his debts. He 
had been assigned to a distant post and, to save his honour as an 
officer, would have had to settle with his creditors before leaving 
Petersburg. He named fifteen hundred paper roubles as the amount 
of his indebtedness, although he confined to Mikhail that it was 
no more than eight hundred, a large part of which he owed to his 
landlord: he had rented a rather expensive four-room flat because 
he liked the looks of the owner, and, to save firewood, was occupy- 
ing only one room. His situation, he told Karepin, was desperate: 
he had no clothes, no food, and would soon be reduced to sleeping 
under the colonnade of the Kazan Cathedral. What other course 
was open to him when he had no one to count on, and his own 
brothers were ready to cheat him out of his rightful due? His 
demand for a lump sum, in lieu of his share of the inheritance, must 
finally be granted. He would be content with a payment of five 
hundred roubles down and another five hundred in monthly instal- 
ments. Then he would clear off his debts and start life anew. He 
wound up with the threat that if his plea remained unanswered he 
would sell his share in the estate to a stranger. 

The guardian unmoved, advised him to withdraw his resignation. 
Whereupon Dostoevsky admitted that he may have acted rashly 
in resigning, but declared that he would rot in debtors' prison — 
he would have to go there without trousers, he told Mikhail — 
rather than re-enter the service before his affairs were in order. As 
to compounding his share of the inheritance, that was positively 
his duty now, since it would be said that as a free lance he might be- 
come a charge on the family. At any rate, he was writing for the 
last time. 

Again Karepin sent advice instead of money. He also had a few 
hard words to say about his ward's greed, and, animadverting on 
his literary ambitions, warned him against being carried away by 
Shakespeare, who was really only "a soap bubble." Dostoevsky 
replied with a letter that he described to Mikhail as "a gem of 
epistolary polemics." He told Karepin to mind his own business, 
b];imed his debts on the loansharks with whom Petersburg was 
overrun, and abruptly opened his heart to this man, of whom he 
had an unprintable opinion, by announcing that the exploration of 
life was at once his study and his diversion. In conclusion he set 


a definite date by which he must have the money. It passed, and 
there was not so much as a word from Karepin. 

In the meantime his resignation had been accepted — on October 
19, 1844. He was at the end of his rope. "I am left alone," he wrote 
to Karepin, "without hope, without help, abandoned to all calam- 
ities: nakedness, beggary, shame, infamy. ..." In addition to every- 
thing else, he was sick. Wouldn't Karepin agree to the arrangement, 
after all? It would be his salvation. It might even enable him to re- 
enter the service. "If there was no ready money, why not borrow? 
Let Karepin at least, for Heaven's sake, send on a statement that 
he could show his creditors, as to his financial expectations. If he 
didn't get the money, he would simply turn over his share of the 
estate to the sharks to whom he was in debt. These dealings with 
his brother-in-law strengthened any disagreeable impressions of 

him Dostoevsky may have had. "Karepin drinks, f s, s s, 

swills vodka, has a rank in the service, and believes in God." Such 
is the thumbnail sketch of the man that he drew for Mikhail. 

Although it was months before he finally received the five hun- 
dred roubles, he did not have to go to prison. He was given to exag- 
eration and was as readily depressed about the sad state of his purse 
as about that of his body. Nevertheless, it is certain that when his 
resignation made him, at the age of twenty-three, a free man, his 
circumstances were dismal. He was making his start in life under 
the most inauspicious auguries. 

1 1 

What kept up his courage through all his troubles was one great 
hope. While he was parading his wretchedness before Karepin, he 
was writing to Mikhail that he was finishing a novel. Here was some- 
thing definite to build on. He would sell it to a magazine or, better 
yet, he would publish it himself, with part of the money he expected 
,from the guardian. But when, at long last, he did get the coveted 
five hundred, it was not enough to pay his debts, so that publishing 
his book was out of the question. Besides, much as it had pleased 
him while he was working on it, he had no sooner finished it than he 
decided to rewrite it completely. He cut, he added, he polished. It was 
only in March of the following year that he considered the job done. 


By then it was too late in the season to issue the novel in book form. 
Should he hand it over to a magazine for a song? No. He was 
writing, as he told Mikhail, not for glory, but for bread. Not that 
he would, for the sake of the money, do less than his best. He would 
follow in the footsteps of Pushkin, of Gogol. Those supreme crafts- 
men were sure of their monuments, and of their money, too. No, 
he would tighten his belt, arm himself with patience, lay aside three 
hundred roubles, even if he would have to go into debt again, and in 
the early autumn when people returned to town hungry for some- 
thing new, he would stake his last chance on printing the thing 
himself, and either be ruined or make a pile of money. Should the 
novel fail, he would probably hang himself. He concludes the letter 
by telling his brother of an article he had been reading about Ger- 
man artists who had died in penury, committed suicide, or gone 
mad: "I am still terrified. One must be a charlatan." 

Five weeks of tormenting worry go by, and he is forced to a fresh 
decision. He is now apparently sharing two rooms and a kitchen 
with his old schoolmate, Grigorovich. They stoke their own sam- 
ovar and get their own meals themselves. These are often extremely 
frugal, sometimes consisting of rolls and barley coffee. At least he 
has clothes enough to last him for two years. The money that was 
to have been saved up for the publication of the book has vanished. 
Besides, well-informed people have assured him that it would be 
bad business for him to issue the novel on his own. And so he will 
submit it to Otechestvennye zapiski ("Fatherland Notes"), a monthly 
which has the enormous circulation of twenty-five hundred copies. 
If the thing is accepted, his future is assured. He has new ideas that 
before long will increase his fame threefold. He has put away child- 
ish things. When he does not write, he reads. He can fairly feel his 
mind expanding, his powers growing. He has revised his novel 
again, greatly to its advantage. This, he assures Mikhail, is abso- 
lutely the final revision. He won't touch it again. If the book is 
accepted, he will have the heart and the time to undertake the trans- 
lations of Sue and Schiller. If it is rejected, he will probably throw 
himself into the Neva. 

Dostoevsky's entrance upon the literary stage was a piece of 
crude melodrama, of the sort in which both his art and his life 
abound. The manuscript of Poor Folk did not, after all, land upon 


the desk of the editor of Fatherland Notes. Instead, it found its way, 
just how is not quite clear, perhaps through Grigorovich, into the 
hands of a pushing, prodigiously active young man, who was then 
little more than a hack, but with a sound business head on his 
shoulders: Alexey Nekrasov. Dostoevsky had read his first collec- 
tion of verse, a thin little book in pink covers, while still at school. 
The man was now a publisher in a small way, and was on the look- 
out for manuscripts for a miscellany that he was planning to issue. 
In this enterprise he was to have the help of Belinsky, the arbiter 
of the intellectuals of the period. This critic had gathered about 
him a group of young men who formed the nucleus of the so-called 
Westerners. For the most part sons of the gentry, they were hberals 
in an age of reaction, chafing against the autocratic regime of 
Nicholas I and dreaming of a Russia rebuilt on the European 

Was there anything in Poor Folk, after all, to recommend it to 
a critic of Belinsky's calibre? So much depended on the fate of this 
story! All Dostoevsky's faith in his performance could not quiet 
his fears as to what was to become of it and him. The late spring 
was ushering in the short, luminous "white nights" of the North. 
Restless with the knowledge that Nekrasov had his tale, Dostoevsky 
left his rooms to spend an evem'ng with a former schoolmate. They 
passed the time together rereading Gogol's Dead Souls. It was al- 
most dawn when Dostoevsky returned home. 

The night was too rare for sleep. He opened the window and sat 
beside it, breathing the mild, disturbing air. Suddenly the bell rang. 
It was just four o'clock. The door opened and in burst Nekrasov 
arm in arm with Grigorovich. They rushed up to the dumbfounded 
watcher of the dawn and put their arms about him. They seemed 
near tears. From their incoherent words Dostoevsky made out that 
they had started to read Poor Folk in the evening, that they had 
spent the night over it, and that it had stirred them so deeply that 
they had to come to the author at once. Suppose they found him 
asleep! They would wake him up. They had to tell him. 

Here was an hour to savour and remember. They talked, not 
only of his story, but of truth and poetry, they quoted Gogol, and 
every second word was of Belinsky. . . . Vissarion Belinsky: he 
would see the story that very day, Nekrasov promised the young 


author, shaking him by the shoulders. And then they left him, with 
the absurd injunction to sleep. For a long time Grigorovich, lying 
on the divan in the adjacent room, heard him pacing back and 

At first Belinsky proved sceptical about "the new Gogol" that 
his fellow editor was pressing upon his attention, and two or three 
days passed before he touched the manuscript. But he, too, stayed 
up all night to finish it. In the morning he clamoured for the author. 
And so Dostoevsky was brought before the great critic. There was 
something solemn about the tone and bearing of the slight, frail 
man. Dostoevsky, awed as he was, could yet discern the nature of 
this solemnity. It was not that of a pompous, self-important per- 
son, but that adopted by a man of stern integrity about to say grave 
and weighty words. What Dostoevsky heard, in substance, was 
that he had written a great book, a book that reached depths be- 
yond the grasp of the author himself. As Belinsky proceeded, his 
excitement mounted, and as usual on such occasions, his voice grew 
shrill, while his assumed dignity melted into enthusiasm. 

Dostoevsky came away from the interview intoxicated. He stood 
still on the street corner overlooking Anichkov Bridge, near which 
Belinsky lived, and stared at the bright day, at the sky, at the un- 
aware pedestrians. In all his dreaming he had never figured to him- 
self anything like this. He was on the threshold of a new world. 
His whole being was buoyed up by "timid elation." He was not 
worthy of this glory. Well, then, he would make himself worthy. 
He, too, would become part of the sacred circle of which Belinsky 
was the master. He would be faithful. This was the greatest moment 
that he had known or, indeed, was ever to know. 

1 1 1 

The exaltation could not last. A man of his unstable temper was 
bound to suffer more than most from the dejection that follows 
intense excitement. Besides, there were enough worries to cancel 
those high moments. The summer brought a breathing spell in the 
form of a trip to Reval to visit Mikhail and his wife, whom he had 
not seen for two years. He returned to Petersburg by sea, and as 
the boat was crossing the stretch of water between Kronstadt and the 


capital, he was assailed by a weariness of the spirit not a little 
complicated by a weakness of the flesh. He was seasick. He was 
thinking miserably of having left behind him, for an indefinite 
period, his brother and his new sister-in-law who, however badly 
situated, had each other to comfort them. The flat, lifeless land- 
scape, as the dirty little steamer churned up the Neva, depressed 
him hideously. He was overwhelmed by a sudden dread of the 
future and a reluctance to go on living. 

He came back to his empty, expensive, unpaid-for flat, had a 
brief interview with his creditors; bought paper and pens, and was 
in such bad humour that he could not make up his mind either to 
sit down at his desk or to visit the one friend who was in town. He 
would have been undone by melancholia if he had not been dis- 
tracted by money troubles. And yet these very difficulties interfered 
with his work, which was of the sort that must mature slowly. 
"What a pity," he wrote, *'that one must work to hve!" Still, there 
was something to be said even for his spleen: it had given him two 
new ideas and a fresh situation for the new story, *'The Double,*' 
with which he was busy. The spleen persisted. It was not merely 
that he was penniless and had to live on credit. He was, as was 
frequent with him, a victim of the mood that begins with depression, 
passes into apathy and self-neglect, and goes on to a self-contempt 
that is an equal mixture of fury and despair. 

Early in October money matters took on a fairer complexion. 
Nekrasov paid down part of the sum agreed on and promised to 
settle the account shortly. He had bought the novel for 150 roubles, 
but now in a fit of compunction, he voluntarily added another hun- 
dred. Here, in advance of publication, before it had even come 
back from the censor, half the town was talking about Poor Folk. 
Grigorovich was his self-appointed claqueur. It was also a matter of 
general knowledge and satisfaction that he had begun work upon 
another piece. He had become the darling of the Belinsky circle. In 
his paternal tenderness, the httle man, forgetting that he was shorter 
than Dostoevsky, would tell everyone: "He's a little bird," adding 
as he held out his hand three feet from the floor, "but he has sharp 
claws." Belinsky's affection for him, as Dostoevsky told his brother, 
was due to the fact that the critic saw in his writings the justification 


of his own views. But Dostoevsky's understanding of the matter 
could scarcely lessen his pleasure. And there was something else 
in the offing. He was to be one of the editors of a satirical paper 
which would poke good-natured fun at everything offensive to the 
group. Dostoevsky projected for the paper a serial to be called 
A Valet's Memoirs of His Master. It was a good scheme, and would 
mean a fair monthly income. 

As the season progresses, he is lifted to the pinnacle of glory. 
He is an habitue of the favourite haunt of the Belinsky coterie: the 
drawing-room of Nekrasov's friend, Panayeva. The great critic loves 
him to distraction. Arriving fresh from Paris, Turgenev, a poet, 
an aristocrat, handsome, rich, keen, has become enamoured of him. 
But his fame is by no means limited to literary circles. Wherever 
he goes, he says, he is treated as a wonder. Whenever he opens his 
mouth, people repeat to each other: Dostoevsky has said this, 
Dostoevsky thinks of doing that. He would run short of paper, he 
tells Mikhail, were he to enumerate all his successes. He has met a 
lot of very fine people — in fact, he is in high society. Prince 
Odoevsky has begged for the pleasure of a visit from him. Count 
Sollogub is tearing his hair because he cannot get hold of this genius 
everybody is talking about. As a matter of fact, the Count went 
so far as to call on the author, in an effort to lure this prodigy into 
what he called his "menagerie." The young writer seems to have 
been thrown into confusion by the appearance of his titled and 
loquacious visitor. The latter carried away with him the impression 
of a sickly-looking, abashed, yet withal attractive young man, 
possessed of a great deal of reserve and amour-propre. 

Success did not seduce Dostoevsky into resting on his laurels. 
He had no end of ideas. In a single night he wrote a complete story 
and sold it in the morning for thirty roubles. Read aloud in Tur- 
genev's rooms before the whole company, it caused a furore. Now 
Belinsky felt sure of him: he could handle such a variety of subjects. 
The story in question is entitled "A Novel in Nine Letters." It is 
a humorous piece in the manner of Gogol, deriving comedy more 
from the style than from the situations. The plot, in which shady 
business dealings and cuckoldry play a part, is a rather farcical one. 

There were still days when he was without a copeck, and, of 
course, the debts had not been wiped out. But that no longer worried 


him. Money was sure to come. An editor, hearing of his straits, 
begged him please to accept the loan of five hundred roubles. He 
needed the money. The Minnas, Claras, Mariannas were prettier 
than ever, but frightfully expensive. Perhaps he liked to boast a bit 
about these exploits, as about his infatuation with the clever and 
beautiful Mme. Panayeva. Turgenev, he declared, joined Belinsky 
in scolding him for the irregular life he was leading. Belinsky kept 
watch over him in the most fatherly fashion. " These people," 
Dostoevsky writes, "don't know what to do to show their affection 
for me, they are in love with me, one and all." 

The miscellany, with Poor Folk in it, is out. It appeared on Janu- 
ary 15, 1846. It is the literary topic of the day. He has, he tells 
Mikhail, thrown a bone to the public. Let the pack fight over it. 
The fools are making him famous. They are taken aback by a work 
from which the author has completely effaced himself. And then too 
there is the novelty of his analytical approach, of his probing. As 
for his own set, they are agreed, and Belinsky along with them, 
that he has outstripped Gogol himself. "My future, brother," he 
sums up the matter, "is a most brilliant one." 

"The Double," too, is out. It took longer to write the story than 
he had thought, but it was a matter of three or four days between 
the setting down of the final period and the printing of the piece in 
Fatherland Notes a fortnight after the appearance of Poor Folk. 
It is, the author informs Mikhail, ten times better than Poor Folk. 
The clique declare it a work of genius and say that there has been 
nothing like it in Russia since Dead Souls. Further, the story 
brought in more than twice as much as its predecessor. And he was 
in receipt of other moneys as well. In fact, in the course of some 
six months he has spent a small fortune. 


The winter months flash by. There are so many impressions 
crowding upon him, so many new contacts, that he has no time 
to collect himself. Ideas swarm about him. His pen never stops. 
In two months he counted thirty-five mentions of him in various 
articles. This is fame! Yet there are flies in the ointment. His friends, 
after praising "The Double" extravagantly, have, on second reading. 


found it wanting. The larger part of the public, too, has dismissed it 
as prolix and, what hurts the author more, dull. The thought that 
he has deceived the expectations of his audience and ruined what 
could have been a masterpiece is a thorn in the flesh. The distress 
makes him literally sick. What is more, the shift in public opinion 
has altered his own view of his work. Now the thing disgusts him. 
Much of it was written hastily and in moments of fatigue. Alongside 
of brilliant pages, he has come to see, there are vile nauseating 
passages. And then there are money difficulties. He has been rash 
enough to accept 250 roubles for "goods" that he has not yet pro- 
duced. And now the cash is spent, and he is again without a 

He is busy with several new projects. There are two stories, very 
terse and with thrilling tragic plots, for a miscellany planned by 
Belinsky, also a trifle for Fatherland Notes, and a novel for Nekra- 
sov. Although a number of new writers have appeared, supremacy is 
still his and he hopes it will remain so indefinitely. Never before 
has his mind been so furiously active. 

His elation was short-lived. By May he was sunk in a mood 
that mixed apathy, anxiety, and the feverish expectation of some 
change for the better. Again he spent part of the summer with 
Mikhail and his family in Reval and returned armed with the 
resolution to live modestly and write slowly. He manages to get 
along, but works badly, and has no prospects. To escape from the 
impasse in which he finds himself he conceives the idea of running 
away to Italy. On what? Well, he will publish on his own a col- 
lection of his writings and make a thousand roubles on it by the 
first of the yea . In order to tide him over, he could, of course, 
get an advance on an unwritten story, but that is just what he is 
trying to avoid. He has been doing that sort of thing too long; to 
keep it up would only be to continue slavery. He is resolved to 
achieve his emancipation. The thousand roubles will permit him 
to pay off his debts and keep him in Italy for eight months. To 
find himself in that land of romance had been his dream since 
childhood. There he will start a novel, at which he expects to 
work two years. The plan is ripe in his head. At last he will be able 
to write something to please himself, without being hurried or 
hounded. Also he will be in a position to dictate his price. On his 


return, he will find himself in clover, what with the second part of 
the novel ready for publication and another volume of collected 
short pieces, both old and new, to be put on the market. 

The grandiose plan fell through. He postponed the trip until 
the autumn. The delay fretted him. He was not prepared to re- 
sign himself to half portions either of fame or of wealth. He 
busied himself meanwhile with his story, "The Shaved Whiskers." 
He would dangle it before the hungry eyes of the magazine editors, 
watch them scramble for it, and fling it to the highest bidder. Of 
course, if he could publish it separately, that would be even better. 
Alas, he had followed the bad example of Aesop's milkmaid. A 
few weeks pass, and all his projects are so much spilled milk. The 
edition of his collected stories is a vain dream and so is the Italian 
journey. Furthermore, when he had reached almost the end of "The 
Shaved Whiskers,'' he was suddenly overcome by the feeling that he 
was merely repeating himself and jeopardizing his reputation. He 
must bring forward something fresh, new, startling, or he was lost. 
The manuscript of "The Shaved Whiskers" has not been preserved. 
He must have destroyed it in disgust. What did appear in the Octo- 
ber issue of Otechestvennye zapiski was the short story, "Mr. Prok- 
harchin," at which he "had slaved the whole summer," as he put it. 

By January, 1847, he expected to finish yet another story, which 
was going brilliantly. Then he would take off a whole year to 
write the novel that was tearing at his vitals. But one must live. 
So he would publish Poor Folk and The Double as separate 
volumes, and only issue his collected writings two years later: 
"This will be extremely advantageous, for I will take in money 
twice and make myself famous." If only he had the capital with 
which to be his own publisher! The book-publishing industry, be 
it said in passing, then in its infancy in Russia, was suffering from 
the business depression the country was feeling at this time. He 
offered Mikhail one-fourth of the profits of the undertaking for the 
loan of two hundred roubles, which would make him independent of 
printers and booksellers. Booksellers were scoundrels. But this time, 
Mikhail, who was often in straits himself and who had a growing 
household to support, failed to respond as usual, and the publish- 
ing venture was indefinitely postponed. 


To make matters worse, in the second winter of his fame 
Dostoevsky had a falling out with Nekrasov and, indeed with the 
entire circle. When he had first appeared in Mme. Panayeva's draw- 
ing-room, where the group met so often, the fair-haired youth with 
the restless grey eyes and the nervously twitching lips struck his host- 
ess as pitifully ill at ease. Turgenev described him as a mole who had 
crawled out into the light of day. He had moments of abysmal shy- 
ness. His eyes would hide behind their lids; his head would seem 
to withdraw like a turtle's; his words would come in gasps. But 
as his visits became more frequent, his bashful manner gave place to 
a tactlessly forward one, which these clever literary people failed 
to interpret as another sign of shyness. They saw merely that he 
was obstinate and cocky and that his fame had gone to his head. 
Indifferent to the fact that they had to do with a thin-skinned 
youth who had been too abruptly pulled out of his dark self- 
communings into the public eye, they behaved like a crowd of 
schoolboys baiting an offensive newcomer. Led by Turgenev, who 
was generally the life of the party, they would encourage Dosto- 
evsky in his contrariness and amuse themselves with the spectacle. 
Instead of laughing off these attacks, he took them seriously, seeing 
himself as the victim of envy, and fairly choked with gall. 

One evening Turgenev was making sport of a man he claimed to 
have met in the provinces who imagined himself a genius. Dosto- 
evsky, trembling in all his limbs and white as chalk, ran out before 
the story was finished. He never came back. The one member of 
the circle whom he continued to see, reported that he spoke of them 
as envious, heartless nonentities. Their own tongues were not quiet. 
The very hands that had set him on a pedestal now none too gently 
took him down. His erstwhile admirers were now his detractors. 
They circulated a rumour that the young author had demanded a 
special decoration, some said a gold border, on the pages of the 
miscellany containing Poor Folk. An epigram, tossed off by Tur- 
genev and Nekrasov and dedicated to Belinsky, described Dosto- 
evsky as a new pimple glowing on the nose of literature, assured 
him that the Sultan was about to send his Grand Vizier for him. 


and referred to his having fainted when introduced to a society 
belle at a fashionable soiree — an actual occurrence. The gold border 
figured here too. 

Nekrasov was just then starting a new magazine, Sovremennik, 
(The Contemporary), or rather reviving an old periodical by that 
name which had been launched by Pushkin, and the quarrel lost 
Dostoevsky this market. According to Nekrasov, Dostoevsky had 
come to him to demand that a certain critical article about him be 
withheld from publication; he had mentioned the epigram, fumed, 
and threatened, until the editor had concluded that the man had 
gone out of his mind. One unpleasant aspect of the break was that 
Dostoevsky was obliged to refund the sum he had accepted as an 
advance. The result was that he agreed to work the entire winter for 
Fatherland Notes, and in return, Krayevsky, the editor of that 
periodical, was to pay all his debts. So here he was again, enslaved 
as before, with no prospect of escape. 

He continued to see Belinsky for several months after his break 
with the rest of the coterie. And then that link, too, snapped. Not 
long afterwards Dostoevsky was to blame the estrangement on 
their failure to agree on the proper function of literature. He may 
indeed have objected to the critic's emphasis on the writer's moral 
and didactic mission, seeing it as a brake on the freedom and 
spontaneity of art. But the fact that Belinsky had grown cool to his 
work is more hkely to have proved fatal to a friendship which, to 
begin with, was pitched in too high a key, particularly for one as 
touchy as Dostoevsky. The previous year Behnsky had been praising 
him unreservedly. Here, he had said, was a genius who must make 
his way slowly and whose fame would be at its zenith when talents 
that might temporarily eclipse him were forgotten. But in his survey 
of the literature produced in 1846, he found "monstrous defects" 
in *'The Double" and deplored the fantastic element in it. "In our 
time," he opined, "what is fantastic occurs only in insane asylums 
and comes under the jurisdiction of physicians, not fiction writers." 
He rejected "Mr. Prokharchin" because of an obscurity scarcely 
illuminated by sparks of talent. In his review of the literary output 
of the following year, he dismissed "The Landlady," which had 
appeared in the autumn, as utterly false and, moreover, unintellig- 
ible. In a letter to a friend, dated February 14, 1848, he was even 


more outspoken. " The Landlady' is awful rubbish," he said. "He 
(Dostoevsky) has composed other pieces since, but every new work 
of his is another failure. In the provinces people can't stand him, 
and in the capital they speak with hostility even of Poor Folk. How 
we've fooled ourselves about this genius! ... I, the foremost critic, 
acted like an ass raised to the second power." 

He had hailed the author of Poor Folk as the hope of what he 
called the Natural School, a novelist who dealt with the realities of 
Russian life in a spirit of protest, however indirect, against social 
injustice, and it pained him to notice that the young man's perform- 
ance was taking on a totally different complexion. Disappointed in 
the writer, he was also cured of his infatuation with the man. He 
discovered that, like Jean Jacques Rousseau, whom he abominated, 
Dostoevsky believed that the whole world envied and persecuted 

He died shortly after dictating — he had been too weak to write — 
the letter just mentioned. Dostoevsky's relationship with the critic 
lasted less than two years, but it left an indelible mark on his think- 
ing. At school he had been an enthusiastic reader of George Sand 
and thus may have caught a whiff of socialist ideas. In the early 
forties they were beginning to seep into Russia, in spite of the rigid 
censorship set up by Nicholas I. By 1843, in Petersburg, the works 
of the French exponents of socialism were, in the words of a con- 
temporary, "the object of study, ardent discussion, questions, and 
all manner of hopes." The doctrine had gone to the head of Belin- 
sky, among others. Several years before Dostoevsky came to know 
him he had announced in a letter that for him sociahsm was "the 
alpha and omega of faith and knowledge." His socialism was a 
humanitarian credo, at once ethical and emotional, involving sum- 
mary rejection of the existing order, emphasis on the importance of 
the external conditions of man's life, and concern for the welfare 
here and now of every human being. But people are so foolish he said 
to himself, that you have to get them into Eden by force. This did 
not daunt him. "Fierce Vissarion" was not one to consider doing 
things by halves. "To make even a small fraction of mankind 
happy," he wrote to a friend, "I am perhaps ready to destroy the 
rest by fire and sword." He adopted the motto: "Sociality or death!" 
and applauded the eighteenth century for guillotining "aristocrats. 


priests, and other enemies of God, reason and humanity.** His 
devotion to reason and humanity never flagged, but, under the in- 
fluence of Ludwig Feuerbach's ideas, he turned against the Deity. 
Shortly before he discovered Dostoevsky he was writing to a hke- 
minded friend: "In the words 'God' and 'religion* I see darkness, 
chains, and the knout. ..." While for some of his contemporaries 
socialism conjured up the vision of a new Christianity destined to 
regenerate mankind, Belinsky saw it as a scheme of secular melior- 
ism based on a purely materialistic outlook. 

In later years Dostoevsky asserted that he had "passionately** 
embraced the critic's "whole teaching.** Of this he gave a none too 
coherent account. In 1846, he wrote, Belinsky had initiated him into 
the world of the "new ideas** which were to become "the future 
law*' of all mankind. He must then have shared the master's dream 
of a Golden Age in which all men would live as brothers on a new 
earth under the rule of Reason. And, like Belinsky, he must have 
believed that socialism, far from destroying freedom, placed it 
upon "a new and adamant foundation" — a conviction that he would 
in time indignantly repudiate. The critic's arguments against religion 
must also have shaken his disciple, even if the uninhibited invective 
to which Belinsky was given in the heat of polemics and which was 
directed even against the personality of Christ rubbed him the wrong 
way. In any event, it must have been during his long talks with 
the critic that the nodus between socialism and atheism was estab- 
lished in Dostoevsky's mind. 


Dostoevsky's quarrel with the Sovremennik circle coincided 
for him with a brief period of well-being. "Never," he wrote 
Mikhail, in the same letter in which he announced his break 
with Nekrasov, "has there been such abundance and serenity in my 
life, so much evenness in my character. Never have I known such 
physical health." New images were crowding into his mind as never 
before. He believed that he was actually undergoing both a moral 
and a physical regeneration. This amazing change he attributed to 
the influence of a group of new-found friends centring around three 
young men — the Beketov brothers. 

With these, the eldest of whom had been a schoolmate of his, 
Dostoevsky set up a kind of communal menage on Vasilyevsky 
Ostrov, in an outlying section of the city. "They cured me," he 
wrote, "with their company." He was as eager for comradeship 
as only a solitary who found sociability difficult could be. Even 
when he was in the midst of pressing work, he wanted someone 
near him. Here with the Beketovs there was no lack of companion- 
ship. There were Dutch-treat dinner parties and an occasional picnic 
Of an evening there would be ten or fifteen people at the house, 
gathered, one fancies, around the samovar, and bubbling over with 
talk. It was not unlike that in which the Belinsky coterie indulged. 
Here was the same animus against oppression, the concern for social 
justice, the Westernist orientation, the tendency to think of the hu- 
man condition in naturalistic terms. 

The communal household was not only of spiritual benefit to the 
young man: it had as well the advantage of economy, the ex- 
penses not exceeding three hundred roubles a year per person. "So 
great," he exclaims, "are the benefits of association." The term 
meant co-operative living and was prominent in the socialist vocabu- 
lary of the day. The arrangement did not interfere with his privacy. 



He had a room of his own, where he spent much time at his desk. 
He was at work on a novel: Netochka Nezvanova. Occasionally he 
broke off at seven o'clock to divert himself with the Italian opera, 
choosing, for cheapness, a gallery seat. He needed distraction, for 
writing was a strain, although, strangely enough, he wrote best and 
fastest when his nerves were at their worst. He felt as though he 
were being tried by the editors, the critics, the public, and he hoped 
to win the case with his novel, to the undoing of his enemies. His 
main problem was to deliver enough copy to Krayevsky to work 
off his debt by the time summer came. Other periodicals offered 
better rates, but since he had taken an advance from Krayevsky, he 
was under the man's thumb. 

He would not publish what he was writing until the whole thing 
was finished. He would keep at his job even if the sky came crash- 
ing around his ears. He knew the measure of his ability and 
would not go astray. Meanwhile, being pinched in pocket, he had 
to depend on the help of "kindly people." He would "perish" if 
it weren't for them. Besides the novel, he was writing a story: 
The Landlady. It was in the manner of Poor Folk, only better. 
"My pen," he blusters, mixing his metaphors, "is guided by a 
spring of inspiration that leaps straight from my soul." The novel 
will appear at the end of the year, and will wipe the floor with his 
former friends of the Sovremennik set who are now trying to bury 
him. Once he has published this novel, he will issue it separately at 
his own expense, and Poor Folk and The Double as well, and then 
perhaps Fate will smile upon him. Meanwhile, life, what with 
poverty, the constant sense of being driven, the unbearable fatigue, 
is the same hell that it has been ever since he first achieved his 
"doubtful fame." 

When he was thus complaining of his circumstances, he was 
no longer sharing quarters with the Beketovs, who had moved 
away from the capital. There was no trace of the euphoria that 
had resulted from his association with the brothers, and he was 
again in the thick of his anxieties and distresses. In his loneliness 
he began pleading with Mikhail more earnestly than ever to retire 
from the service and come to settle in Petersburg. He would be sure 
to find work. Perhaps he would make a literary career for himself as 
a translator. Everybody was doing it. Dostoevsky hinted that he 


might even make peace with Nekrasov for Mikhail's sake. At least 
they would be together, and so they would gain courage and their 
strength would be doubled. In ten years they would have three 
hundred and fifty thousand roubles. The benefits of association — 
the word is never far from his pen-point — would be theirs. 

Mikhail succumbed to his brother's enthusiasm. Yes, he agreed, 
association was a great and sacred thing. He would tender his 
resignation and move to the capital, with the expectation that his 
Emilia and their three children would join him there later. What 
with selling the furniture and borrowing, he might bring with 
him as much as two hundred roubles, and this would be the foun- 
dation of their future fortune. They would want accommodation 
for a servant — one of their serfs — and they must have a lodging 
with firewood supplied. In the autumn of 1847 Mikhail arrived 
in Petersburg, to the great joy of his brother and the regret of 
all those wishing to inquire closely into what Dostoevsky was 
doing and thinking during the two or three years that followed, 
for with Mikhail in the same city he had no need to pour himself 
out in letters to this, his sole confidant. 


To add to the difficulties that beset the young author, his health 
was wretched. A sedentary life and long periods of overwork 
must have aggravated a condition due to more fundamental, if 
obscure, causes. When he resigned from the service he had talked 
vaguely of being ill. He had been in the habit of neglecting him- 
self and avoiding doctors. Now just the contrary was true. The 
months that had followed his initial success had been filled with 
more definite complaints. He suffered from nervous spasms of 
the throat. He feared "nervous fever." If he failed to have sea 
bathing in the summer, he didn't know what would become of 
him. At the end of April, 1846, he explained his silence to Mikhail 
on the grounds of having been at death's door. *T was terribly 
sick, suffering from an irritation of the entire nervous system, and 
the ailment attacked the heart, causing it to become congested and 
inflamed — a condition which was barely checked by leeches and 
two bloodlettings." He was by then out of danger, but far from 


recovered. In his doctor's opinion the illness had been develop- 
ing for three or four years, and recuperation would be a cor- 
respondingly long process. He was to diet and lead an orderly, 
quiet, and utterly lean existence, and perhaps have a change of 
scene. This grave illness is never mentioned again. 

That summer an advance received from Krayevsky enabled him 
to have a visit with Mikhail at Reval. But before he left town 
he had to undergo more doctoring. On a May morning in 1846 
he went to a certain young medico named Yanovsky, recommended 
to him by a recently acquired friend, to be treated for a minor 
complaint. The doctor, being a man of literary interests, must have 
been somewhat flattered to be consulted by the celebrated author 
of Poor Folk. Looking at this patient with a more attentive eye 
than usual, he noted that his visitor was below medium height 
(actually, he measured five foot six), but broad-boned, especially 
in the shoulders, and with remarkably large hands and feet, that 
his fine soft hair was blond to the point of whiteness, that his fore- 
head was unusually well developed, his pale grey eyes small and 
restless, and his lips thin and compressed, giving a look of con- 
centration to the face. The doctor was surprised to see that the 
patient held himself not like the graduate of a military school 
that he was, but rather in the slouching fashion of a divinity stu- 
dent. His black jacket was of excellent cloth, his vest of black 
cashmere, his linen fine and immaculate, and he carried a topper — 
indeed, he looked almost fashionable, except for his shoes, which 
were shabby. 

The examination showed that there was no trouble with the 
vital organs, except that the heartbeats were irregular and the 
pulse uneven and "remarkably compressed, as with women and 
people of nervous temperament." To a very marked degree the 
patient exhibited the traces of having suffered from such diseases 
of childhood as rickets and scrofula. 

While he was treating Dostoevsky for the local disorder, which 
he did not choose to name — was it an unmentionable ailment? — 
the physician came to suspect that, in addition, his patient was 
probably afflicted with an obscure affection of the nerves. He was 
led to this notion partly by Dostoevsky's account of a nervous con- 
dition to which he had been subject in childhood, partly by what he 


saw of the man's disposition and consititution. As the doctor may 
have known, Dostoevsky's heredity, too, was bad: he was the son 
of a consumptive and a dipsomaniac who had strange seizures, and 
one of his uncles drank himself to death. That the family tree bore 
bad fruit may be seen from the fact that one of his brothers became 
a hopeless drunkard and one sister a psychopath. A few weeks' 
treatment was sufficient to cure the patient of the local ailment, 
but the nervous trouble persisted. The doctor was soon to recog- 
nize its true nature. 

Dostoevsky's character was in itself indicative of his affliction. 
He was irritable and suspicious, given to magnifying trifles and 
distorting ordinary facts. There were times when he behaved 
paradoxically: he adored his little godson, Mikhail's first-born 
and his own namesake — he was cross with him about nothing; he 
admired and respected his brother's wife — he was rude to her; he 
looked up to his brother — he treated him as an inferior. "Some- 
times when my heart is swimming in love," he wrote to Mikhail, 
"you can't pull a kind word out of me." Extraordinary circum- 
stances, he claimed, could sometimes bring him to show his true 
feelings, but too often his ill temper and sullenness caused him to 
be misjudged by those around him. He gave as a reason for his 
behaviour that his nerves refused to obey him, and rightly connect- 
ed the discrepancy between the way he felt and the way he acted with 
his illness. 

Another symptom was his hypochondria. He complained of pal- 
pitations of the heart. His condition threw him into a panic. The 
projected trip to Italy was planned, he told Mikhail, not for his 
pleasure, but for his health. Should he try Priessnitz's cold water 
cure? He must do something. He also spoke vaguely of inflamma- 
tion of the brain. He came to believe that the climax of his illness 
was something like temporary insanity. It was of this period that 
he said: "For two years on end I suffered from a strange moral 
ailment. I fell into a hypochondriac state. There was even a time 
when I lost my reason." He was past middle life when he wrote 
reminiscently to Dr. Yanovsky: "You loved me and looked after 
me, mentally deranged as I was (now I know that that was what 
was wrong with me). ..." Toward the end of his life he elaborated 
a curious theory as to the cause of the derangement. It had been due. 


he asserted, to abdominal plethora, which produced haemorrhoids, 
hypochondria, and consequent nervous and mental disorders. 
His brother Nikolay, he said, was a sufferer from the same 

Sometimes Dostoevsky was afraid to go to bed. Suppose he were 
to fall into a sleep resembling death? Spending the night with a 
friend, he begged that they would not be too quick to bury him, 
should they think him dead, and he pictured the horror of waking in 
the grave. He would leave a note on his table to the effect that he 
should not be buried too soon. Now and again he felt as though 
death were paying him a call — a loathsome and terrifying experience. 
He may well have been remembering his own sensations when, in 
The Insulted and Injured, he described the mystic terror of his hero: 
the dread of an inconceivable and impossible something turning into 
a horrible, ruthless reality, a dread no less harrowing because the 
mind is divided between an understanding of its folly and an in- 
ability to reject it. 

He fell into the habit of dropping in at Dr. Yanovsky's bachelor 
apartment every day and sometimes spending the night. If he came 
early, he would not breakfast before glancing at himself in the 
mirror and having the doctor look at his tongue and feel his pulse. 

He turned to Yanovsky for more than relief from his hypo- 
chondriac obsessions. Here was a man who knew the secret work- 
ings of the body, the diseases of the flesh and the mind. There was 
so much to be learned about the nervous system, about the brain, 
about insanity. For one who felt himself always trembling on the 
verge of a nervous breakdown, there was something of both fas- 
cination and terror in the subject. He would pump the doctor. 
He would borrow medical tomes. What especially caught his at- 
tention, as it did that of so many of his contemporaries, was phre- 
nology. Assiduously Dostoevsky felt his own bumps and discov- 
ered, not without satisfaction, that his skull was shaped like that 
of Socrates. He had the same development of the frontal bone, 
over the perceptive and reflective organs, the same jutting super- 
ciliary ridges, the same absence of projections in the supraoccipital 
bones where the lower instincts and sentiments were located, ama- 
tiveness among others. This he found truly remarkable. Yanovsky 
must have seen for himself that he was "no petticoat chaser." What 


he was fond of was not the petticoat at all, but the cap: the kind 
worn by his friend Maikov's mother, Yevgeniya Petrovna. Indeed, 
according to his friend and physician, Dostoevsky had never shown 
signs of a passionate interest in women. Riesenkampf, who had 
known him earlier, also found him indifferent and even hostile 
toward them. Barring his brief infatuation with Mme. Panayeva, 
one finds no sentimental involvement of the slightest consequence. 
On the other hand, there is some indirect evidence that the young 
man did not lack sexual experience and that it was of a kind that 
he looked back upon with shame. It remains true, however, that 
his early writings are curiously sexless. Only in his mature work 
does passion find its voice. 


In addition to his physical distresses, his irritability, his hypo- 
chondria, his "moral ailment," Dostoevsky came to show symptoms 
of a more specific and far more alarming character. About the time 
when Poor Folk was on the stocks he was subject, if Grigorovich's 
testimony is to be credited, to seizures, which were usually followed 
by two or three days of mental misery. On one occasion the two 
friends were walking together and met a funeral procession. Dosto- 
evsky wanted to beat a retreat, but before he could go any distance 
he had a "fit" so violent that he had to be carried to the nearest 
grocery, where with great difficulty he was restored to conscious- 

Another friend saw him in a mild attack in the summer of 1846 
or '47. It was late at night, a small party was drawing to an end, 
when Dostoevsky's face changed queerly and a frightened look 
came into his eyes. A few moments passed and then in a hollow 
voice he asked: "Where am I?" and ran to the window for air. 
When his host came into the room, after seeing the other guests 
off, he found him sitting on the window sill, his face twisted, his 
head bent to one side, his body shaking convulsively. He doused 
him with cold water, but Dostoevsky, without coming to himself, 
ran out into the street. The alarmed host dashed after him, but 
could not keep pace with him, and jumped into a cab. When he 
caught up with him at the gates of a hospital, a couple of blocks 
away, Etostoevsky was in a calmer state and allowed himself to 


be taken home. He explained that he had run to the hospital with 
the vague notion of finding help there. 

Dr. Yanovsky saw him in the throes of a serious attack three 
times. The first of these occurred in July, 1847. One day the doc- 
tor was drawn like one hypnotized to Saint Isaac's Square, al- 
though he had no business there, a fact that Dostoevsky afterwards 
adduced as proof of the significance of forebodings. As he was 
crossing the square he ran into his patient, clutching the arm of a 
military clerk. Hatless, his coat and vest unbuttoned, his cravat 
untied, Dostoevsky was shouting that he was dying and calling 
for Yanovsky. His pulse was pounding away at the rate of more 
than 100, his head thrown back and held rigid, and his body be- 
ginning to shake with convulsions. The doctor took him home, 
opened a vein, drawing coal-black blood, and kept him at his 
apartment for several nights. 

In the case of the second attack witnessed by Yanovsky, just 
as in the instance reported by Grigorovitch, it was something that 
had to do with death which appears to have touched off the 
paroxysm. It was caused by the death of Belinsky. When Dostoev- 
sky brought the news to Yanovsky one May morning in 1848, 
he was in such a state that the doctor insisted that he remain with 
him. All went smoothly during the day, but at three o'clock in 
the morning the doctor heard heavy stertorous breathing in the 
room where Dostoevsky was sleeping. He went in to him and 
found him lying on his back in convulsions, with open eyes, foam- 
ing lips, and protruding tongue. The third attack occurred in the 
early spring of 1849, also late at night, after an unpleasant inci- 
dent at a meeting of a discussion group of which Dostoevsky was 
a member. Again he ran to Yanovsky for help when he felt the 
seizure coming on. The doctor describes it as "violent and 
characteristic," adding that his patient also had many light 

Not that Dostoevsky understood the nature of his trouble. He 
called it humorously "kondrashka with a little breeze" — the 
"breeze" was apparently his way of describing the premonitory sen- 
sation as of a current of air experienced before an epileptic attack, 
and kondrashka is the popular term for a stroke. 

At the time Yanovsky recognized that Dostoevsky was suffer- 


ing from epilepsy, which in his opinion first showed itself in 1846, 
if not earlier. Grigorovich would have it that the malady was already 
apparent in his school days. Another friend said that Dostoevsky 
had suffered from the disease "since his cliildhood." and accounted 
for it thus: "Something terrifying, unforgettable, tormenting, hap- 
pened to him in his childhood, the result of which was his falling 
sickness," — an opinion in which Dr. Yanovsky concurred when he 
was in possession of most of the facts. "It was precisely in his child- 
hood," the physician then wrote, "that Dostoevsky had a dark, 
gloomy experience such as never passes without leaving a scar, even 
if it occurs in maturity, and which so affects the temperament as 
to lead to nervous diseases and consequendy to epilepsy." It is 
clear from the context, however, that the doctor was referring not 
to a specific trauma but to the oppressive atmosphere which the 
father's tyrannical behaviour created in the home. 

That Dostoevsky's illness was caused by a shock and that this 
occurred early in his life is the story related by Orest Miller, co- 
author of the first biography of the novelist. He was told by a person 
"very close" to Dostoevsky that his malady dated from his "earliest 
youth" and was connected with "a tragic event in their family life." 
Unable to corroborate this statement, the biographer discreetly 
withheld all details. If this "tragic event" was the assassination of 
the father, his reticence is intelligible, since mention of the matter 
was forbidden by the relatives. It may be noted that Dostoevsky's 
daughter, in her life of his, mentions a family tradition to the effect 
that the news of the murder brought on the first epileptic seizure. 
That Dostoevsky had Smeryakov, in The Brothers Karamazov, 
contract epilepsy at the age of twelve is perhaps of some signi- 

These suggestive, if meagre and uncertain clues, together with 
scraps of evidence derived from Dostoevsky's writings, have led 
to the formulation of a psychoanalytic theory of the origin of his 
trouble. Unlike lesser lights, Freud himself, realizing how scant 
and dubious the information is, was not dogmatic on the subject. 
He was inclined to see in the novelist's ailment not an organic 
affection, but rather the symptoms of a neurosis. "The most probable 
assumption," he wrote, "is that the attacks go back to his childhood, 
that the symptoms were mild to start with, and did not assume 


epileptic form until after the terrible experience of his eighteenth 
year, the murder of his father." The key with which he tried to 
unlock the mechanism of Dostoevsky's neurosis was the familiar one 
of the Oedipus complex. 

The Freudian theory sees the boy as a creature torn between love 
and hatred of his father, the hatred being all the more savage since 
it was kept under and hidden from his pious and filial self. On the 
one hand, in the inmost depths of his heart he longed for the satis- 
factions of a tender union with his father; on the other, he feared 
him, broke out in revolt against him, and unconsciously wished 
his death. The news of the slaying comes as the tidings of fulfill- 
ment, both joyful and terrible. Are not his hands stained with his 
father's blood? Did he not commit the murder, in will, if not in 
deed? Henceforth his sense of guilt will be heavier than ever and 
find a dozen subtle ways of shaping his life. His epileptic attack, 
with its premonitory moment of bliss, due to the granting of the 
death wish, its period of unconsciousness and subsequent distress, 
is then a punishment meted out to him by his own conscience and 
at the same time a fond identification of himself with his dead father. 
The psychoanalyst sees a special meaning in the fact that the attacks 
were released by such experiences as the sight of a funeral proces- 
sion, the news of the death of Belinsky, the man who had stood 
to him in loco parentis. It is perhaps of significance that the theme 
of a child believing itself responsible for the death of its parents 
is touched upon in two of Dostoevsky's early tales, and that the 
father-son relationship and the crime of parricide play an important 
part in his major fictions. 

His epilepsy has also been diagnosed as genuine, one physician 
opining that it was based on *'an endocrine abnormality." When 
doctors disagree, the layman must remain in doubt. One thing is 
certain: Dostoevsky's attacks manifested themselves at least as 
early as 1846, when he was twenty-five, and plagued him for the 
rest of his life, while his super-sensitive, misanthropic, unstable 
disposition, marked by hypochondria, a strong religiosity, and a 
tendency to take refuge from reality in a dream world, answers to 
the description of the epileptic personality as presented in medical 
literature. An eminent authority on the disease has stated that it 


develops in most cases when the patient is in his teens, and another 
physician maintains that the epileptic make-up is discernible from 
earliest childhood. Exactly when Dostoevsky's initial seizure occur- 
red, what caused the malady, and what its true nature was, will 
probably always remain open questions. 


OF a Friday evening Dostoevsky would occasionally make 
his way — sometimes taking Mikhail along with him — to a 
small frame house on Pokrov Square, walk up a stairway 
lit by an ill-smelling lamp in which hempseed oil burned smokily, 
and emerge into Petrashevsky's rather dingy drawing-room. He 
had become acquainted with the man in 1846. It was the following 
year, around Lent, that he made his first appearance at Petrash- 
evsky's Fridays — they had started some two years earlier. Like the 
opera, the circus, aad Nilsen's sermons, the gatherings at the house 
of this small ofl[icial in the Foreign Office were then one of the 
institutions in Petersburg about which visitors to the capital would 
write home. Dostoevsky found there, wrapped in a fog of tobacco 
smoke, about a score of people: officers, government clerks, teach- 
ers, literary men, university students. There were some habitues 
and many transients, and the host, a short, thick-set, hirsute young 
man, with lively black eyes and nervous gestures, darted from one 
group to the next, too intent on having the minds of his guests meet 
to bother about their being properly introduced to each other. The 
names of some Dostoevsky never learned. 

The samovar would be purring, the piano might be opened, and 
before the company broke up in the small hours the table would be 
spread with a modest supper. Cards were banned. The place was 
a cross between a social club and a debating society. What chiefly 
drew the men together was the talk. It was of the kind that could 
not but attract a disciple of Belinsky. Ideas were touched upon, 
sentiments were voiced that scarcely befitted faithful communicants 
of the Orthodox Church and loyal subjects of the Emperor. 
Domestic and foreign news was discussed, official measures freely 
criticized, the antics of the censors and other abuses denounced; 
serfdom was attacked, the family and religion questioned. Quite a 



few of Petrashevsky's guests were free-thinkers or, indeed, atheists, 
and he himself once described Christ as "a well-known demagogue 
who ended his career rather unsuccessfully." 

Dostoevsky contributed little to the casual conversation. Re- 
served and taciturn, he gave the impression, when he did speak, 
of possessing the earnestness and ardour that make a good 
propagandist. On one occasion he moved the company deeply by 
describing from hearsay the flogging of a corporal who had avenged 
himself on a brutal officer — a punishment which he was to witness 
more than once. An acquaintance had it that at the spur of the 
moment he was "capable of appearing on a square with a red flag." 
After the revolutionary events which marked the year 1848 in the 
West, the tone of the gatherings became somewhat more formal. 
Occasionally there would even be a chairman who wielded a bell in 
the form of a hemisphere with a handle representing Liberty. Some- 
times a speech would be delivered on a definite topic, such as social 
reform or the principles of political economy. Dostoevsky gave a 
talk in which he dealt with a psychological theme that is the 
subject of several of his stories: the dwarfing of personality. Again, 
a man might read a manuscript, perhaps a story with a purpose. 
The host, who was a born proselytizer, had no stomach for pure 
art. He insisted that literature was merely one of the means to the 
great end of regenerating society. 

In addition to holding his at-homes, Petrashevsky had organized 
a small co-operative lending library which included forbidden 
foreign publications. The Dostoevskys, both Fyodor and Mikhail, 
belonged to it. Such bootleg literature was smuggled over the border 
in quantities. 

The works of the French socialists figured prominently among 
the books circulated by Petrashevsky. The doctrines of the Uto- 
pians, particularly those of Fourier, commanded the allegiance of 
many of his visitors. Just at the time when the Fourierist colonies 
that had sprung up in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wis- 
consin, and on the shores of Lake Ontario, were falling into decay, 
seeds of the faith were sprouting on the cold banks of the Neva. A 
few Russian heads were giddy with the dream of a world of har- 
monious, strictly patterned living, of a true society in which men 
would be at one with nature and their own kind, and know neither 


fear, nor hate, nor envy, nor cruelty — in short, a cross between a 
planned Paradise and the land of Cockaigne. Unlike the Americans, 
who had an opportunity to test out their theories, the Russian Four- 
ierists, under the stern paternalism of Nicholas I, had to confine 
themselves to idle discussion. Since there were no means of carry- 
ing them out, there was no limit to the extravagance of the schemes 
hatched by these dreamers. On a certain Friday Dostoevsky listened 
to a proposition that the world be divided into two halves, one to 
be given to the Fourierists, the other to the communists, for social 
experiments. "Let them live as good neighbours," the speaker is 
reported to have added, "and borrow from each other the good 
things each has." To this the host took exception. There was no- 
thing, he argued, that the Fourierists could borrow from the com- 
munists, except perhaps atheism. A fanatical follower of the French 
reformer, he looked forward to living in a phalanstery himself and 
it is said that he attempted to induce his own serfs to form one but 
that they had burned down their Eden. 

On April 7, 1849, eleven men met at dinner to celebrate Fourier's 
birthday. The occasion they were marking, the first speaker 
declared, was bound to accomplish "the transformation of the planet 
and of the human beings that inhabit it." After setting forth the 
master's doctrines at some length, he touched on matters of immed- 
iate concern to his hearers, saying: "My fatherland is in chains, 
my fatherland is enslaved." He ended, however, on a note of hope, 
exclaiming: "Transfiguration is at hand!" There was general 
applause, and two men embraced him. Petrashevsky, who rose next, 
extolled Fourier's system as the only one that was capable of har- 
monizing society with human nature, but did not underestimate the 
difficulties of planting the seed of socialism in "the savage soil" of 

The third speaker was most eloquent. He painted the life around 
him in the blackest tones, but ended on a note of proud rhapsody. 
"We have come here not to lament and tell pitiful tales; on the con- 
trary, we are full of hope, triumph, and joy. . . . We must remember 
the greatness of the cause for which we are struggling. To restore 
the laws of Nature, trampled upon by the doctrines of ignorance; 
to restore God's image in man in all its grandeur and beauty, to set 
free and organize the lofty, harmonious passions hitherto restrained 


and crushed; to destroy the capitals and cities and to use all their 
materials for other buildings, and to turn this life of torture, disas- 
ters, poverty, shame, and disgrace into a life harmonious and 
abundant with joy, wealth, happiness, and to cover all this poverty- 
ridden earth with palaces and flowers — that is our great task, than 
which there is no greater on earth. . . . We here in our land will 
begin the transformation, and the whole earth will accomplish it." 

Dostoevsky was not present at the dinner. He could not work 
up much enthusiasm, for Fourierism, which, as a matter of fact, he 
knew at second or third hand. The regimentation involved in the 
Utopian schemes disturbed him. He felt an urge toward comrade- 
ship, communal living, togetherness. But he also had a jealous sense 
of his own free and unpredictable self, his own inviolable will. 
Moreover, that feeling for reality which was coming to restrain his 
daydreams made him look quizzically at the prospect of recruiting 
radiant phlanges from brutalized serfs. Yet he had not lost his inter- 
est in the tender-minded socialism into which Belinsky had initiated 
him. It was based on the attractive premise that evil had no roots in 
human nature, and it held the promise of a Golden Age to come. 
Also it was comforting to find that so many of these French re- 
formers kept invoking the name of Christ. A volume on one of 
Petrashevsky's shelves contained a supplement wherein a certain 
Victor Meunier argued that the teachings of Christ were akin to the 
most revolutionary doctrines of the times and that were He to walk 
the earth again. He would be court-martialed. Belinsky had once 
spoken in the same vein. Pierre Leroux went so far as to identify 
the society that was to be with the universal Church. The idea would 
eventually become central to Dostoevsky's thinking. 

Petrashevsky was an internationalist and he favoured the trans- 
formation of the Russian empire into a federated republic, like the 
United States of America. But however radical his views, he was 
no revolutionary. A firm believer in progress under the tutelage of 
reason, he held that the Fourierist variety of socialism offered his 
compatriots a way to achieve the good life peacefully. This con- 
viction was not shared by all those whom he drew into his orbit. 
Harsh facts broke in on Utopian reveries. Among the frequenters of 
the Fridays there were a few individuals with a less feeble grasp 
on Russian realities. Further, they were by temperament less given 


to follow the counsels of gradualism and moderation. Violence was 
already exerting its attraction upon some. It would seem that 
Dostoevsky belonged to this handful of potential militants, capable 
of acting in defiance of the law. 


As has been said, the coterie that centred around Petrashevsky 
had none of the earmarks of an organized body. There were those 
in the company who came to feel the need of setting up something 
in the nature of a formal association. One of them, an army officer, 
Nikolay Mombelli, was the author of an essay in which he 
suggested that the Tsar be put on a diet of the Vitebsk peasants for 
a few days — their bread looked like dried horse dung mixed with 
straw. He and another man conceived the idea of establishing what 
they vaguely called "a brotherhood of mutual aid." The matter 
was discussed privately by half a dozen people, including one 
Nikolay Speshnev. 

Among Petrashevsky's guests he stood out as a strikingly hand- 
some figure and a magnetic personality. A substantial land-owner, 
he had lived abroad a good deal. There was a touch of the Byronic 
about him, something at once splendid and sinister. It was rumoured 
that during his stay in Dresden he had had at least two desperately 
romantic affairs with Polish ladies. Bakunin called him a gentle- 
man from head to heel; Petrashevsky called him a man of masks. 
While abroad, he may have come under the influence of the early 
communists. At one of the Fridays he made a speech to disprove 
the existence of God. He seems to have begun by declaring his in- 
tention to spread by word of mouth ^'socialism, atheism, terrorism, 
everything, everything good in the world," and advising his hearers 
to do likewise. 

There was general agreement that "the brotherhood" should be 
a secret society run by people of republican views. One man sug- 
gested that its rules include the threat of death to any informer. 
The purpose of the projected organization was a moot point. Spesh- 
nev cut in on the hemming and hawing by indicating that he 
favoured "a purely political society," engaged in propaganda and 
preparing for "insurrection." It was seldom that this bold word was 


heard at the Fridays, and then only when talk turned to the con- 
dition of the serfs. On one occasion Dostoevsky himself is said to 
have welcomed a revolt of the peasants if that was the only way in 
which they could obtain freedom. 

Speshnev was to insist later that he had mentioned insurrection 
in order to bring the discussions of "the brotherhood" to an end 
by frightening the participants. The matter was, in fact, dropped. 
Nevertheless, Speshnev, for one, apparently did not abandon the 
idea of a secret society working for a violent upheaval. He believed 
that a revolution might occur in Russia within a few years. There 
was nothing fuzzy about his socialism. He favoured nationalization 
of the land and government control of both agriculture and in- 

It was this man who for a while seems to have exerted a strong 
influence on Dostoevsky^s thinking. There is something enigmatic 
about their relationship. "Now I am with him, and I am his ... Do 
you understand, I have a Mephistopheles of my own?" Dostoevsky 
told Yanovsky, if one is to credit the doctor's reminiscences set 
down many years later. Yanovsky has it that his friend was referring 
to having borrowed no less than five hundred roubles from Spesh- 
nev. "I'll never be able to pay back this sum," Yanovsky quotes 
Dostoevsky as saying; "and, besides, he won't take just money — 
that's the kind of man he is." Was there another element in the 
situation? Among Speshnev's papers the police found a pledge to 
the effect that "the undersigned" had joined "the Russian Society" 
and had obligated himself "to take part openly and fully in the 
uprising and fight, when the Committee had decided that the time 
for rebellion had arrived," as also to enlist other members, and 
have each sign a like pledge. Speshnev assured the authorities that 
the paper was nothing but a draft, without significance, and that it 
had not been signed by anyone nor, indeed, been shown to anyone. 
To account for Dostoevsky's feeling that he had sold his soul, it has 
recently been suggested that he actually took this pledge, but there 
is nothing to support this conjecture. 

By the winter of 1848-49 some of those who had been attending 
the Fridays were also meeting elsewhere. A number of men, 
Dostoevsky among them, drawn together by a plan to issue a liter- 
ary miscellany, had decided to start "a salon" of their own. The 


explanation that they had grown tired of the serious talk and wanted 
to have intimate "literary-musical evenings" may have been camou- 
flage. According to Speshnev, the chief reason for secession was 
the suspicion — a well-founded one — that secret service agents had 
been planted at Petrashevsky's. The group met at the lodging of the 
poet Pleshcheyev and later at the apartment of another minor 
writer, one Durov, each member paying three roubles for his share 
of the refreshments and the rent of a piano. 

At a gathering in Pleshcheyev's room Speshnev urged the authors 
present to send him manuscripts that were sure to be barred by the 
censor, saying that he would have them printed abroad and 
smuggled into the country. During the very first meeting at Durov's, 
Mombelli again harped on the necessity for "people of advanced 
views" to form a close association. A student by the name of 
Filippov proposed that the group make a systematic study of con- 
ditions in Russia, each member dealing with some phase of the 
subject, and that the results be circulated among "discreet people." 
Dostoevsky's essay, which, like the rest, never materialized, was 
to be on socialism. Filippov urged further that they secretly repro- 
duce their manuscripts by lithography. This was a daring proposal. 
But everyone knew Filippov. Hadn't Dostoevsky seen the daredevil 
munch a cluster of green rowanberries the previous summer in the 
midst of a cholera epidemic, just to prove that he was afraid of 
nothing? Half of those present, not wishing to be taken for cowards, 
held their peace. When people finally broke into speech, it was to 
raise objections, cite difficulties. Two of the musical members 
of the company changed the subject by taking up their instru- 

Nothing further was done about the matter except to inquire 
into the cost of a lithographic stone. But Filippov did purchase the 
parts of a printing-press and took them to Speshnev's apartment. 
The enterprise seems to have been carried out with Dostoevsky's 
help. One winter day he called on his friend, Appollon Maikov, 
and asked leave to spend the night. In the course of the evening he 
announced that he had been delegated to invite Maikov to join a 
group of seven or eight men, including Speshnev and Filippov, who 
were setting up a secret press. They had left Petrashevsky out of it 
— he was "a fool, an actor," and couldn't hold his tonsue. That 


Maikov should have been approached with this request is rather 
surprising. Though an occasional guest of his old acquaintance, 
Petrashevsky, he was not politically-minded, and just then he was 
absorbed by a love affair and by a novel that he was writing. 

Naturally, he balked at the idea. It meant certain ruin; further, he 
argued, the two of them were writers, impractical men, while politics 
was an eminently practical matter. "And I remember,'* he wrote 
thirty-seven years after the event, "how Dostoevsky, in a night- 
shirt open at the neck, sat like dying Socrates before his friends, 
and enlarged, at the height of his eloquence, on the sacredness of 
this undertaking, on our duty to save our fatherland, and so 
forth. ..." The next morning Dostoevsky went off, having charged 
Maikov not to breathe a syllable about the matter. The setting up 
of a secret press in the Russia of Nicholas I was an undertaking 
tantamount to planting a bomb. All Dostoevsky's other acts against 
the constituted authorities were trifling by comparison. 

If the press was actually set up, it certainly remained idle, though 
not for dearth of suitable copy. A number of subversive pieces 
were passed from hand to hand. One of them, written by Filippov 
himself, was a commentary on the ten commandments, in which 
the Tsar who does not side with the people against the masters and 
officials is described as "a ruler whose authority is not from the 
Lord but from Satan." It was read at a dinner given by Speshnev 
and attended by Dostoevsky along with other members of the Durov 
group. A story, entitled "Soldiers' Talk," from the pen of an army 
officer who was occasionally seen at the Fridays, was to be officially 
described as "revolting" and "intended to undermine the private 
soldiers' devotion to the throne and obedience to their superiors." 
There was great demand for copies of another piece: the lengthy 
letter addressed in July, 1847, by the outraged Belinsky to Gogol, 
on the publication of the latter's obscurantist book. Selected 
Passages from Correspondence with Friends. The missive was a 
vehement philippic against the bureaucracy, the Church, the in- 
stitution of serfdom. For a government, Belinsky wrote, Russia had 
"a huge corporation of thieves and robbers." As for the Church, it 
had always been "a prop of the knout and a toady to despotism," and 
had nothing in common with Christ, who "was the first to instruct 
mankind in liberty, equality, fraternity." The Russians were fun- 


damentally a level-headed and "a deeply atheistic people." They 
needed civilization, enlightenment. The first necessity was the freeing 
of the serfs, abohtion of corporal punishment, respect for the exist- 
ing laws. Dostoevsky received a handwritten copy of the epistle 
from Moscow and read it at Durov's, as well as at Petrashevsky's 
and elsewhere. The letter aroused "universal rapture," and it was 
decided to make several copies of it. This document, the last testa- 
ment of his former mentor and the manifesto of Russian Hberalism, 
was to become for Dostoevsky one of the chief instruments of a 
hostile fate. 

But before doom fell, he was to know the stimulus of ideas, fan- 
tasies, beliefs, tapped from many minds. For a writer, there was 
even more pabulum in the faces, the voices, the gestures, the minu- 
tiae of personality, that these various contacts offered. Not that 
everything was seized upon and used at once. There was a laying-up 
of treasure, a perhaps only half -realized hoarding. 

Young Dostoevsky's associations were by no means confined to 
radical coteries. The group that centred around Dr. Yanovsky was 
of a conservative temper, and so were the Maikovs. On Sunday 
evenings he would often repair to the spacious apartment near the 
Blue Bridge occupied by that family. Headed by a veteran of the 
Napoleonic wars who was a painter with academic laurels, it in- 
cluded four brothers. One of them. Valerian, a critic who crossed 
swords in the press with Belinsky himself, was drowned in the 
summer of 1847 at the age of twenty-four. Another, Appollon, was 
to be Dostoevsky 's Hfelong friend. At these gatherings he was 
bound to be exposed to the nationalist ideology which was just 
then taking shape. But it was not only here that he ran into it. By 
this time the discussion of these theories had gone beyond the 
Moscow salons and penetrated into the public prints of both capitals. 
Most young men in touch with their times were familiar with the 
Slavophil point of view: Russia was totally different from and 
superior to the West; Europe was mortally sick, Russia was bursting 
with health; while in the West the state, being based upon conquest, 
must live by violence and remain merely a formal, legalistic in- 
stitution, the Russian body politic, having been founded by amicable 
compact between the people and their sovereign, could develop 
organically and peacefully; the Tsar's rule rested firmly on the 


loving submission of his subjects; while Rome had imposed upon 
Western Christianity a limiting rationalism, the Orthodox Church 
had preserved a comprehensive spirituality which made it the sole 
vessel of true Christianity. Some of these ideas were the unacknow- 
ledged foundations on which the world of Dostoevsky's childhood 
had rested. There was something reassuring and protecting about 
a philosophy that exalted the ancestral order and the familiar faith, 
that saw in the Tsar the image of the Father who by the mere fact 
of his existence established and preserved the social framework. 
But at this time Dostoevsky was not ready to accept these views. 
He was to endure much travail of body and mind before they would 
become his rod and staff. Now he was responsive to ideas of a 
different order. 


Dostoevsky's discontent with the state of public affairs may well 
have been aggravated by his private harassments. Mikhail's arrival 
in Petersburg did not bring all the blessings expected of it. Certainly 
it brought no money. The sum of Dostoevsky's published work 
for the year 1847 was the short story called "The Landlady," aside 
from that bagatelle, "A Novel in Nine Letters," and several feuille- 
tons. True, Poor Folk appeared separately, but Netochka Nezvan- 
ova, the novel upon which so much had been staked, failed to mate- 
rialize, and indeed nothing is heard of it until two years later. The 
situation was desperately discouraging. The brothers shared quarters 
until Mikhail's family — his wife and three young children — came to 
join him the following Easter. On Good Friday, when Dostoevsky 
had to prepare some sort of reception for the newcomers, his credi- 
tors were all at his throat. 

In 1848 he was more prolific, perhaps because of the sustaining 
influence of his brother's presence. Mikhail, too, in addition to a 
good deal of translating, did some original work. Dostoevsky came 
out with four long stories and two lesser pieces. One of the latter, 
"Polzunkov," appeared in the miscellany edited by Nekrasov, who 
went out of his way to secure it — he could more easily give up a 
friend than a contributor. 

The winter of 1948-49 was one of penury and general wretched- 
ness. Yanovsky offered him fifteen or twenty roubles of his own 


and told him to borrow some cash from the alms-box into which 
he and his friends dropped their spare five-copeck pieces for beg- 
gars too proud to accept the free meal-tickets then in use. The 
friends had also, at Dostoevsky's suggestion, started a small co- 
operative loan fund. A drawer in the doctor's desk was the bank. 
the same drawer containing the rules of the institution written in 
Dostoevsky's hand. But he rejected Yanovsky's offer. It was not 
twenty or fifty roubles that he needed, but hundreds. 

By New Year's Day his distress was acute. There was no getting 
along with him at all. He was more irritable than ever, more easily 
offended, and ready to make much of trifles. He complained more 
frequently of attacks of vertigo. He felt that he was going to pieces. 
And he owed money to everybody. As usual he borrowed from 
Peter to pay Paul. 

The enormous sum Speshnev had lent him was no more a solu- 
tion of his present difficulties than the sum he had received from 
the guardian had been. His original debt of four hundred roubles 
to Krayevsky had almost doubled. He felt as though he were in 
peonage to the man. The worst of it was that he was forced to botch 
his work. In order to pay off the debt, he told the editor, he was en- 
dangering his health, poor at best, and what was worse, injuring 
his name, his "sole capital." He began to look upon his work as 
drudgery that did not even yield bread. A mood of what he called 
"self-belittlement" took possession of him — a mood that gave way 
to self-assertiveness when he addressed Krayevsky. He wrote that 
the advance made him had been in the nature of a business risk, 
rather than a personal favour, that his vogue had been steadily in- 
creasing throughout the previous year, and he must be genuinely 
gifted if he could overcome "beggary, slavery, the fury of the critics 
who were solemnly burying [him], and the prejudice of the public." 
It was criminal to make a man so talented do less than his best. 

He had previously agreed to turn over to Krayevsky practically 
everything he wrote, in return for fifty roubles a month, the mini- 
mum of subsistence. He was now faced with an unforeseen expense. 
One way of taking care of it would be to write a story for another 
review, but this would interfere with his work on Netochka Nezvan- 
ova, the first two parts of which had recently appeared in the 
magazine. It was essential to keep at it, so that at least the first six 


parts could appear in successive issues. Besides, he wasn't writing 
for money only. "I love the novel. . . . It's more precious to me than 
the whole of Fatherland Notes. I wouldn't spoil it for one thousand 
roubles a signature," he declared roundly. 

The point of this outburst was that he wanted one hundred 
roubles at once. Let it be considered an advance on the third and 
fourth parts of Netochka — still unwritten — the remainder of the 
sum that will be coming to him for those two parts to go toward 
the amortization of his debt. He promises to deliver the third part 
of the novel by the fifteenth of February. He must have the money, 
though he knows that to accept it is against his own interest, since 
it prolongs his slavery, and furthermore, after all that has passed 
between him and Krayevsky, is indecent. 

Dostoevsky received the hundred roubles that he had begged for. 
Not that he delivered the third part of the novel by the middle of 
February, as promised. He was only just finishing it by the end of 
March. He was then in fearful straits, and wrote again to 
Krayevsky, begging abjectly for ten roubles so as to throw a sop to 
his landlady, whom he had not paid for two months. On the last 
day of March he was telling the editor without a trace of compunc- 
tion that he hadn't turned in the third part of the novel earlier be- 
cause he had spent a month trying to write a story that would bring 
him an additional fifty roubles. He hadn't succeeded: in fact, he had 
only acquired a headache and ruined nerves, in addition to three 
magnificent subjects for big novels. Krayevsky must have felt that 
he had hold of an author who, whatever else was lacking, had all 
the reputed irresponsibility of genius. 

Without taking a moment's rest, Dostoevsky insists, he is now 
plugging away at part four. It can't be delivered before April 8. 
But how can he go on writing at all? When he accepted the money 
in February, he swore to himself that he would never take another 
advance. But he can't help himself. Easter is only three days off. 
The remittance that should have reached him from relatives in 
Moscow will only arrive after the holiday. This is one of the two 
periods in the year when creditors refuse to be put off. *T will come 
to you on Saturday," he announces. *'For God's sake don't send 
me away without a hundred roubles. I'll never ask another copeck 
of you. My brother is my witness. Ask him." It he doesn't get the 


money, Krayevsky will have no further instalments of the novel to 
offer his readers, for Dostoevsky will have to turn his hand to some- 
thing that will bring an immediate return. After seven years of living 
on credit he is at the end of his tether. He must put a stop to this 
system of working off debts. He still remembers Good Friday of the 
previous year when, in addition to everything else, he had to prepare 
against the arrival of his brother's family. He can't face it again: 
he'll have cholera. And what of literature then? 

Krayevsky did not send him away without the hundred roubles, 
but before the date set for the delivery of the fourth and fifth parts, 
he was writing to the editor again. This time he needs only fifteen 
roubles. He is fighting his small creditors as Laocoon fought the 
serpents. The fourth part of the novel, which he has not yet de- 
livered, he promises, a second time, for the middle of April. But 
he must have fifteen roubles. Only fifteen roubles. "What are fifteen 
roubles to you? But for me they're a great deal. For a week I've 
been without a groat. Literally nothing. If you only knew to what 
I've been reduced. It's shameful to write about it. And what's the 
use? Isn't it disgraceful," he adds, with something between humour 
and pathos, *'that the contributors to Fatherland Notes should be so 
poor?" Whether or not he got the fifteen roubles is not known, 
but Krayevsky never received the fourth part of the novel. 


On the twenty-second of April, Dostoevsky was on his way to the 
usual gathering at Petrashevsky's. It was an unseasonably warm 
evening. Drenched to the skin by a sudden shower, he stopped off at 
Yanovsky's to change his clothes and borrow fare for a cab. The 
doctors' pockets were as bare as the proverbial cupboard, and the 
drawer with the loan fund held only large bills. Yanovsky, rather 
than see his friend go out into the rain on foot, persuaded him to 
draw on the alms-box. Dostoevsky took six five-copeck pieces and 
left. He never paid back the money. The following morning he was 
roused out of his first sleep — he had come home in the small hours 
after stopping off at another friend's — ^arrested, and committed to 
prison in the Fortress of Peter and Paul. 


SUDDENLY the hand of that sternest of fathers — the Tsar — was 
heavily upon him. He had sinned against him, and here was 
retribution. He was roughly pulled out of his familiar, if harass- 
ing, existence and thrust into a vacuum. He was stripped of his 
clothes, his books, his manuscripts, his very name. This number 
Seven, this thing in the filthy grey prison gown and felt slippers, 
locked up alone in an ill-lighted cell, treated by the silent guards 
and the examining magistrates as a creature set apart from men 
by the unnatural ways of the criminal — ^was he not a terrifying 
stranger tenanting the body of Fyodor Dostoevsky? But what non- 
sense! Come, he must get a grip on himself. If only he were writing, 
this nightmare would lift. 

But writing was not to be thought of — he was not allowed paper 
and pen. The first days were particularly hard. Except for the few 
visits of the guards — they would bring him his meal of watery soup 
and boiled meat heavily seasoned to disguise its age — there was 
nothing to divert him. No human voice reached him, indeed no 
sound, save the grating creak of keys in locks and perhaps the 
muffled chime of the cathedral clock measuring off his hours. 

What, after all, were the charges against him? What penalty 
might he expect? He did not know. He could perhaps reason him- 
self into something like courage in the daytime, particularly if 
the upper part of the high window — the lower panes were chalked 
to opacity — showed a blue patch of sky. Yes, he had listened to wild 
talk against the constituted authorities, the established order, the 
Tsar himself, against property, the laws, the family, against God 
and the Saviour — he had contributed to it himself. But he was 
a writer, not a conspirator, and at heart a Christian and a patriot. 
Yet there were other times when everything looked black. At nine 
o'clock lights were put out, and as he lay on his straw pallet in an 



agony of sleeplessness for what seemed interminable hours, he 
must have touched panic. He had been reading forbidden books. 
He had been associating with hotheads. He had read Belinsky's 
letter at gatherings more than once and had it passed on to be 
copied. Of course, they were bound to find out about his part in 
setting up the secret press. He was without question a criminal. 

The present was empty. The future did not bear thinking of. His 
mind naturally turned to the past, though that too was dangerous 
ground for a man in his situation. Only a few days ago he had been 
running about, trying to get a few roubles from Krayevsky — trying 
to squeeze blood out of a stone — trying to keep on his legs in spite of 
wretched health, trying to get on with Neto<:hka Nezvanova, and all 
the while feeling at the end of his rope. And then came the night that 
had changed everything and made all that preceded it seem almost 
a lost paradise. 

It was four o'clock in the morning when he had been awakened 
by the clank of a sabre and a soft, friendly: "Get up, sir!" The 
weapon belonged to an awkward gendarme stationed at the door, 
the gentle voice was that of a major of the gendarmerie. In the 
uncertain light Dostoevsky also made out the figure of a police 
captain with superb side whiskers. While he dressed himself with 
unsteady fingers, the two men searched his room, looking over all 
his books and papers. The police captain went so far as to rake 
over the cold ashes in the grate with Dostoevsky's pipe, and had 
the gendarme climb to the top of the stove to see if anything for- 
bidden was concealed there. Noticing a bent silver coin on the 
table, he eyed it suspiciously and ended by placing it with the 
books and papers that they were confiscating. The last things that 
struck Dostoevsky as he left his disordered room were the scared 
face of his landlady and the stupid solemn look in the eye of his 
servant, frightened, but also impressed with the importance of the 
proceedings. Then there was the trip through the morning streets, 
and the headquarters of the political police near the Summer 
Garden. The doors of the detention room kept opening to admit 
more sleepy-eyed prisoners, under the escort of men in blue uni- 
forms. Before the morning was over nearly two score people had 
been rounded up. Among them Dostoevsky was astonished to en- 
counter his irreproachable brother Andrey, who had been arrested 


by mistake. One literal-minded gendarme brought along with his 
captive the woman found in that gentleman's bed. Most of the men 
knew each other, and the day dragged on not too disagreeably, what 
with the companionship and the fine dinner capped by good cigars. 

It was late in the evening when Dostoevsky made the long trip 
across the Neva to the fortress. In the guardroom he changed to con- 
vict's clothes, and then crossed the little drawbridge connecting the 
main fortification with the Alexis Ravelin. Excitement had delayed 
the fatigue of a sleepless night, and anxiety waited until he had 
entered the squat old prison, walked through a dark vaulted pass- 
age and down a half-lighted corridor to find himself in this 
shadowy, bare, ill-smelling cell. Rumour had it that men left this 
northern Bastille either for the grave or the insane asylum. 

At the end of a fortnight he was summoned to appear before 
the investigating commission that was at work examining papers 
and grilling the prisoners. He was interrogated about his education, 
income, personal contacts. Four weeks passed before he had another 
hearing. In addition to being examined orally he was given pen and 
paper and requested to make a general deposition and to answer 
specific questions in writing. 

In his affidavits he admits having gone to Petrashevsky's on an 
occasional Friday. But he asks: "Who has seen my soul? Who has 
measured the degree of perfidy, wickedness and rebelliousness of 
which I am accused?" If he made a speech once or twice, it was not 
on a political subject. Perhaps he did sometimes express himself 
with excessive heat, but that was momentary. Not that free and 
frank discussion, within Hmits, can displease the authorities. His 
own reputation is that of an uncommunicative person. He has few 
friends and little leisure for them. 

Like everyone else, he writes, he talked about such things as 
censorship at home, the course of events in Western Europe. A 
breath-taking drama is unfolding there, an age-old order is breaking 
up. Was it a criminal offence to have felt concern about what is 
happening in the land that gave Russia its culture? The crisis in 
France is perhaps an historic necessity and may lead to happier 
times. That makes him no enemy of autocracy. "There never was 
anything more absurd to me," he declares, "than the idea of a 
republican regime in Russia. ... All the good things in Russia 


since Peter the Great have come from the throne . , ." As for 
censorship, no one who loves Hterature can avoid discussing it. The 
differences between the writer and the censor are the result of mis- 
understanding, and all he ever said on the subject was in an effort 
to bring the two together. What was the use of having given him 
an education, if he is denied the right to have opinions of his own? 

Yes, he read aloud Belinsky's letter, but he also read Gogol's 
reply. And not by so much as intonation or gesture did he indicate 
his own bias. Indeed, he is definitely out of sympathy with Belin- 
sky's ideas. That letter is too bizarre, too soaked in gall, too full 
of wild assertions to lead anyone astray. It is obviously the product 
of a mind embittered and distorted by illness. He read it partly be- 
cause it is something of a literary document, partly to clear himself 
of the suspicion that he still bore a grudge against this late friend 
with whom he had quarrelled. Besides, he owed respect to a man 
who had admirable qualities and was remarkable for his time. He 
admits, however, that he had made a mistake in reading the letter. 
As regards the mad suggestion for lithographing subversive pam- 
phlets, made by Filippov — a lovable youth, but so hot-tempered 
and impetuous — it was because of his, Dostoevsky's, dissuading 
voice that the proposal had been rejected. 

He was not, he points out, intimate with Petrashevsky and knew 
nothing of any plans he may have had. The Fridays were informal 
gatherings. If the chatter sometimes exceeded the bounds of propriety, 
it was because the guests felt that they were among friends, en 
jamille as it were. At all events, he thought Petrashevsky was a 
ridiculous rather than dangerous character. Consider: he was an 
ardent Fourierist, and where? In Petersburg! Now Fourierism is a 
peaceful "system" that bewitches the soul and fills the heart with 
love of mankind. It does not encroach upon government, property, 
religion, the family. In France it may prove harmful, for there the 
starving proletarians in their desperation grasp at any means and 
are ready to use it as a banner. But "one need walk no more than 
twenty paces in a Petersburg street to realize that on Russian soil 
Fourierism can exist only in the pages of an uncut book or in a soft, 
gentle, dreamy soul." For his own part, he is devoted to the study of 
history and economics, and so he has investigated socialism in all 
its ramifications, but he has never been a socialist. Not that he can 


wholly condemn it. It is a false science like alchemy, but just as out 
of alchemy issued chemistry, so out of socialism there may arise for 
the common good "something harmonious, rational and benefi- 

It is clear that Dostoevsky did not recant and abjectly plead for 
mercy, as did so many of his fellow prisoners. Nor did he try to 
shift the blame for what he had said or done to other shoulders. 
That he was not quite candid and that he concealed certain facts 
is equally plain. He was obviously at pains to represent the whole 
affair as a matter of venial indiscretions and, by the same token, to 
minimize his own guilt and that of his comrades. Years later, long 
after he had repudiated his radicalism as a youthful aberration, he 
pictured the "Petrashevists," including himself, as far from impetu- 
ous but well-meaning innocents. 

The investigating commission sat through the summer months, 
the official wheels grinding out in leisurely fashion what the Govern- 
ment was pleased to call justice. Meanwhile, Dostoevsky lay in 
prison. There were moments when he felt that he had never known 
any other life, and did not look forward to any other. Time, here 
as elsewhere, flowed unevenly. He marked off each day as it passed 
on an improvised calendar, but the end of the trial seemed as un- 
important as it was remote. His appetite was poor, he was living on 
castor oil, sleeping about five hours a night, waking repeatedly, and 
suffering from abominable dreams. He had spells of dizziness when 
the floor swayed under his feet and his cell was like the cabin of 
a boat in dirty weather. He complained to Mikhail of his nerves, of 
a return of his throat spasms, of the opening up of old sores on 
his face and in his mouth, of a pain in his chest, of haemorrhoids. 
And yet, with it all, he felt that he had great reserves of strength to 
fall back upon. 

On the whole, the horrors of the first weeks had abated. In some 
ways life here was not so different from what it was outside. He 
even managed to borrow ten roubles. He had distractions and 
occupations. He had learned how to communicate with the man in 
the cell next his by a system of knocks. A few letters from Mikhail 
reached him. In July he was permitted paper and pen, and so he 
could relieve himself of the stories that he had invented and had had 
to keep locked up in his head all these weeks. He had never written 


with such a sense of satisfaction, and yet it was a severe strain 
because there was nothing to divert him. If only he had books! 
The prison library had a few edifying works, but he could scarcely 
find much intellectual substance in travels to the Holy Land and the 
works of Saint Dmitry of Rostov. And never had he so longed for 
a glimpse of green leaves! 

It was August before this desire was finally gratified. He was 
permitted a short daily promenade in the prison courtyard. There 
were trees there, and he counted them, as a prisoner will, and found 
that with the big linden they numbered seventeen — unhealthy look- 
ing things, shaded as they were by the walls of the prison. But they 
were green after all, and they reminded him of the hospital garden 
in Moscow, where he and Mikhail used to play in the spring, of the 
park at the engineering school where he had strolled as an unhappy 
"hazel hen," of visits to Mikhail in Reval when early summer was 
crowding the squares with green. The same month he was also 
allowed a candle at night, another luxury. Occasionally Mikhail 
managed to smuggle money and imported cigarettes in to him. And 
then books drifted in — Schiller, Shakespeare, the Bible, and even 
magazines. In the May issue of Otechestvennye zapiski he found the 
last instalment of Netochka that he had sent to Krayevsky in those 
almost unimaginable days before his arrest. It was unsigned: the 
authorities could not allow the name of a political prisoner to 
appear in print, but at least his story was there. Could he ever 
again take up the thread of the unfinished tale? 


The investigating commission discovered nothing aside from the 
fact that there had been meetings at Petrashevsky's and elsewhere, 
at which "pernicious" opinions and doctrmes, especially Four- 
ier's system, were freely aired and subversive manuscripts read. Both 
Speshnev and Filippov confessed that they had tried to set up an 
illegal printing-press, but the authorities failed to find any trace 
of the press. The parts had been spirited away from Speshnev's 
quarters after his arrest and presumably destroyed. No evidence was 
discovered of the existence of any organized secret society or of any 
attempts at revolutionary propaganda or action. Nevertheless the 


high commission recommended that twenty-eight of the prisoners 
be court-martialled. Dostoevsky was among them, as one of "the 
most important" culprits. Accordingly the emperor appointed a 
special tribunal presided over by a general. It was then the end of 

Dostoevsky was hauled before the judges and asked if he had 
any statement to make. This is what he wrote: "I have never acted 
against the Government with malice prepense. What I did was 
done without premeditation and much, so to say, inadvertently, as, 
for example, the reading of Belinsky's letter. If I ever spoke freely, 
it was only in the circle of my close intimates, who were in a posi- 
tion to understand me and knew in what sense my words were in- 
tended. But I always avoided disseminating my doubts." 

Followed more weeks and months of solitary confinement. He 
anticipated the cold season with dread. A slit of bright sky seemed 
a guarantee of cheerfulness and health. The coming of winter aggra- 
vated his aches and pains. For two and a half months he was for- 
bidden either to send or receive a letter. His purely cerebral existence, 
without impressions from the outside to feed his mind, was beginning 
to tell on him. He had the sensations of a man sitting in a chamber 
from which the air was being pumped. He was living entirely in his 
head, and his writing was squeezing the last juices out of him. And 
yet. strangely enough, he knew that at bottom all was well with 
him. Beneath the surface worries which fretted him, there ran a 
strong undercurrent of contentment. He was conscious of an in- 
exhaustible store of vitality. He was at peace with himself and the 
world. Eventually he came to believe that his arrest had saved 
him from insanity. His curious serenity fits in with the theory that 
he unconsciously accepted this punishment as an atonement he had 
long craved. Here was assuagement for any sense of guilt that may 
have been lurking in some subterranean corner of his mind, dis- 
turbing gravely both his bodily well-being and his mental poise. 

He did not know that the court, after six weeks of deliberation, 
had condemned him, along with fourteen others, to capital punish- 
ment by shooting. In due time the verdicts were reviewed by the 
highest judicial body known as the Auditoriat General. These jurists 
opined that since, in political crimes, no distinction was made 
between ringleader and follower, fully twenty-one of the twenty- 


three prisoners were legally liable to the supreme punishment. In 
view, however, of the prisoners' youth, their repentance, and the 
fact that they had not translated their designs into action, the high 
judiciary recommended to the monarch that terms of hard labour, 
of varying length, be substituted for the death sentence. In the hier- 
archy of guilt Dostoevsky occupied the tenth place, the list being 
topped by Petrashevsky, who received a life term. 

Dostoevsky*s sentence was to be eight years of hard labour in a 
Siberian fortress and the loss of all civil rights. The verdict listed 
two counts against him: the reading aloud of Belinsky's ''criminal" 
letter, and presence at the reading of the "revolting'* story, entitled 
"Soldier's Talk." The part he played in setting up the secret press 
remained unknown to the authorities. 

A summary of the report drawn up by the Auditoriat General 
was submitted to the emperor on December 19. The fate of the 
prisoners was now in the hands of Nicholas. He decided not to 
treat them as harshly as he had the Decembrists, whose abortive 
rebellion he had so ruthlessly crushed on his ascension to the 
throne. He confirmed the commutation of the death sentences, and 
in some cases reduced the term of hard labour. Opposite the para- 
graph relating to Dostoevsky he wrote: "Four years [of penal 
servitude] and then into the ranks with him." The astounding 
severity of the sentences could only be accounted for by the hys- 
teria which seized the Russian Government as it watched the 
thrones of Europe rock in the revolutions of 1848. 

The emperor had a weakness for theatrical effects, in addition 
to immense self -righteousness. He gave orders that the death sen- 
tence should be announced to the prisoners in a public place in the 
presence of the populace and the troops, and that only after the 
men had gone through all the preparations for their execution, were 
they to be informed at the last moment that the Tsar in his ineffable 
charity had made them a present of their lives. 


On the morning of December 22, Dostoevsky was aroused before 
daybreak. Something unusual was going on in the prison. He was 
given the clothes he had worn when he was arrested eight months 


earlier, and thus scantily protected against Christmas weather he 
was placed with a guard in a closed coach. There were more 
coaches containing other prisoners, and when they started on 
their way each vehicle was escorted by mounted gendarmes with 
sabres drawn. From the window he could see crowds of people 
walking in the same direction. He did not know where he was 
being taken. Though they went at a trot, the trip of three or four 
miles seemed endless. When he alighted, it was into freshly fallen 
snow. Just above the horizon a huge red ball was glowing dimly 
through the morning mists. The biting air seemed to pierce through 
his light clothing to his bones. Yet it was intoxicating. Glancing 
eagerly about, he found himself in a familiar place — Semyonov 
Square, with its orange barracks, and the cupolas of the cathedral 
veiled in haze. But the parade ground had an unusual look. It wasn't 
merely the crowds, nor yet the troops, lined up in square formation. 
It was that structure right in front of him, its three sides framed by 
soldiers, a railed platform, draped in black. Dostoevsky did not 
know that the height of the platform, like the speed of the horses 
that had brought him there, and every other detail of the drama that 
was to follow, had been determined by the authorities with the 
approval of the emperor. 

More coaches kept arriving, bringing more men, some of them 
total strangers to him. Dostoevsky shook hands with the fellow 
prisoners whom he knew, exchanged a few words with them, stared 
at their changed, bearded faces. The general who seemed to be 
master of ceremonies put an abrupt end to their interchanges, and 
had them line up. Then a priest, in the vestments appropriate to 
a funeral, and carrying the cross and the Gospels, approached the 
prisoners and bade them follow him. They tramped after him in 
the deep snow, past the long line of troops, which had been chosen 
from regiments in which some of the prisoners had served as offi- 
cers. Dostoevsky walked briskly. The men ascended the scaffold. 
Here they were rearranged and stood in two unequal rows. In a 
whisper — they were forbidden to speak — Dostoevsky told his neigh- 
bour the plot of a story he had written in prison. He was now in 
that state of calm that extreme nervous tension sometimes pro- 

Answering the short command: "Present arms!" came the re- 


verberant clanking of rifles. A court clerk stepped forward and 
stood between the rows of prisoners. They were ordered to bare 
their heads. Calling on each of the men by name, the clerk read off 
the verdicts. As he mumbled in the fashion peculiar to his kind, 
much of what he said was lost on his hearers, but not the identical 
phrase which recurred at the end of each verdict. I>ostoevsky heard 
it like a refrain: "Petrashevsky . . . condemned to capital pun- 
ishment by shooting.'' Other names were called, and finally, like 
the name of some stranger, his own: Fyodor Mikhailovich Dos- 
toevsky. The mumbhng went on as before and ended as before, 
with the incredible words: ^'condemned to capital punishment by 

The reading lasted an unconscionable time. In his light clothes, 
his head uncovered, he shuddered with cold. Suddenly the sun, 
which had been hovering behind the mists, broke through, and 
somehow it came over him that they were not going to be executed. 
He said so to Durov, who was standing beside him. But Durov 
pointed out a cart covered with a mat which hid, he thought, their 

The clerk finished his reading. With a kind of vacant intensity 
Dostoevsky watched his gestures as he carefully folded up his paper 
and shoved it into his side pocket. The clerk's place was taken by 
the priest. Choosing as his text St. Paul's judgment: *'The wages 
of sin is death," he preached briefly to the condemned. In a voice 
that shook he told them that with bodily death all was not over, and 
that through faith and repentance they would inherit life eternal. 
He urged them to confess their sins and make their peace with God. 
Only one man was shriven. Dostoevsky, with the others, knelt to 
kiss the cross. One guesses that he did so like the condemned 
criminal in The Idiot, who pressed his lips to the cross greedily, as 
though in a hurry to possess himself of something he might need 
badly. With that act he knew himself abandoned by all men, beyond 
help, alone. 

The gold-laced master of ceremonies dismissed the priest, who 
was lingering with the condemned, saying abruptly: "There is noth- 
ing further for you to do here. Father." Therewith two men in bright 
kaftans came forward and broke a sword over the head of each of 
the prisoners who was of the nobility, in token of the loss of the 


rights and privileges pertaining to their rank. Dostoevsky knelt 
with the other to suffer this disgrace. This over, the guards helped 
the condemned perform their last toilette: to remove their outer 
clothing and get into hooded white linen shirts with long sleeves — 
their shrouds. One of the men who could still joke asked: "How 
do we look in this attire?" And then, in silence, Petrashevsky and 
two of the others were led away from the scaffold to three grey posts 
and bound to them. They faced a firing squad of fifteen soldiers 
standing fifteen paces off. 

For ten, for twenty, perhaps for forty minutes — how could he 
tell? — Dostoevsky had been living with the thought, the excru- 
ciating certainty, that he was about to die. It seemed impossible 
that these staring thousands, their faces red blurs in the frost, their 
eyes fixed upon the condemned, would go on living, while he must 
cease to exist, and now. He was the sixth. He must go with the next 
lot. So soon? 

"Someone condemned to death," reflects Raskolnikov in Crime 
and Punishment, "says or thinks, an hour before his death, that if 
he had to live somewhere on a height, on a rock, and on a ledge 
so narrow that he had only room to stand, and around him, abysses, 
the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting 
tempest — if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space 
all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so 
than to die at once! Only to live, to live, and to live! To live, no 
matter how!" In The Idiot the emotions of a condemned man just 
before his execution are described in detail. With five minutes left, 
he feels that there is an infinity ahead of him, that with so much 
intervening time there is no need yet to think of the final moment. 
He sets aside time for a last farewell to his comrades: two minutes; 
he allots a period to his last thoughts: two minutes; the remaining 
minute is for looking about him the last time. As he says good-bye 
to one of his comrades he asks him a trivial question and is deeply 
concerned over the answer. The two minutes come that he set apart 
for thinking to himself. "He knew beforehand what he would think 
about. He wanted to realize as quickly and clearly as possible how 
it could be that now he existed and was living and in three minutes 
he would be something — someone, or something. But who? Where? 


He meant to decide all that in these two minutes! Not far off there 
was a church, and the gilt cupola was glittering in the bright sun- 
shine. He remembered that he stared with terrible persistency at that 
cupola and the rays flashing from it; he could not tear himself away 
from the rays. It seemed to him that those rays were his new nature, 
and that in three minutes he would somehow merge with them. . . . 
The uncertainty and feeling of aversion to that new thing which 
would be and was coming at once was frightful." But there was a 
more dreadful sensation. He was tortured by the thought of what 
life would be if it were given back to him, of the eternity that would 
stretch out before him, of all that he would pack into it, of the full- 
ness with which he would live it. At last the thought made him so 
furious that he wished they would shoot him at once. 

Inevitably one imagines that Dostoevsky was here transcribing 
emotions that he had lived through. At the last a feeling of utter 
indifference came over him. He was not sorry to die. Perhaps the 
sheer intensity of his experience brought him momentarily to the 
point of emotional exhaustion. Everything seemed insignificant 
beside the terrible moment of transition to the unknown, to dark- 
ness. He embraced Pleshcheyev and Durov. There was momentary 
comfort in the warm contact. He had some five minutes more to 
live. He thought achingly of Mikhail. 

Meanwhile the men tied to the posts had their hoods shoved 
over their eyes. Dostoevsky watched them with a kind of com- 
posure. A sense of the inevitability of the end blunted his agony. 
The command rang out smartly: "Ready. Aim!" Fifteen rifles 
swung into position. There was a rumble of drums like doom. At 
the sound, the rifles were tilted upward, the men at the posts were 
unloosed, a Government courier leapt from his carriage with a 
paper in his hand. The terrible comedy was over. It was a reprieve. 

Capital punishment was commuted to terms of hard labour in 
Siberia, At the news two of the men threw themselves on their 
knees in prayer, one of them crying out: "The good Tsar! Long 
live our Tsar!" Grigoryev, who had just been unloosed from the 
posts, was raving. Another of the reprieved men said bitterly: "It 
would have been better if they had shot us." Several men felt so 
— the blow to their human dignity implied in this sham execution 
was crushing. Dostoevsky was incapable of either joy or indigna- 


tion. The stupor of indifference still held him. He had lived through 
something so terrible that now nothing mattered. 

In the meantime the guards were busy with the convicts. They 
helped the men remove their shrouds — Dostoevsky kept his as a 
souvenir, and gave each a convict's cap, a sheepskin coat, and a 
pair of felt boots. In the biting cold the warm clothing was a god- 
send. Petrashevsky was clapped into irons right there on the plat- 
form with his own aid, and, after he had embraced and kissed every 
one of his comrades, was sent off directly on liis long journey to 
Siberia. The rest were taken back to prison. When Dostoevsky 
found himself again in his cell, whole and alive, he was at last able 
to surrender himself to the joy of resurrection. He strode back and 
forth, and from the depths of his shaken being came something 
that was almost a song. 


So this was what he had to face — four years of hard labour in 
Siberia. And then, for an indefinite period, the black lot of a soldier 
in the ranks. But he would not look so far ahead. The main thing 
was that he was alive, a human being among his kind. Life was a 
gift, a single moment could be like the widow woman's cruse. He 
felt conscious of an untapped reservoir of spiritual energy. It fairly 
seethed in him. Not to be brutalized, to remain a human being under 
the most degrading circumstances — he must stick to that now. He 
had come to an end, but that meant actually a beginning. He would 
be reborn. The head that had been busy with ideas and images, 
that head was off his shoulders. To love, to suffer, to pity, to re- 
member — wasn't that enough? The hopes of youth were torn out of 
his heart. He was done with writing. But was he really? Perhaps 
when he had served his term there would be a chance for it. But 
there would be years when the images that he had conceived and 
nourished would either fade out of his mind or, dying there, fill him 
with the poisons of decay. Yes, he will go under if he can't write. 
And even if his spirit holds out, won't his body go to pieces under 
the strain? No matter! He had been about to die: he was alive. What 
had he to fear? 

He poured out his heart thus to Mikhail in a letter that he wrote 
the day of the reprieve, after permission to see his brother was re- 


fused. He charged him to Hve quietly, with prudence and foresight. 
His commissions were few. Mikhail would probably receive his 
books and papers, the draft of a play and of a novel and the manu- 
script of A Fairy-Tale for Children — all he had written in prison. 
He should make certain to return to the old lady Maikov her own 
copy of her late son's book, which Dostoevsky had borrowed. Mik- 
hail would find the right words in which to give that old friend his 
last greeting. He should press the hands of the young Maikovs, of 
the good Yanovsky, kiss brother Kolya, send a word to Andrey, 
to their sisters, to uncle and aunt. He assured him that there was 
no bitterness in his heart, and that all he wanted was to be able to 
embrace some one of his own people. 

This wish was finally granted him. He was allowed to see his 
brother two days later, a few hours before his departure for Siberia. 
It was Christmas Eve. With Durov, he was taken to the command- 
ant's house, where the investigating commission and the court- 
martial had held their sittings. In a large room on the ground floor, 
lighted dimly by a single lamp, he saw a familiar figure. Yes, it 
was Mikhail. Dostoevsky was wearing a sheepskin coat and felt 
boots, in readiness for his long journey. Of the two brothers, it 
was the convict who was the calmer, and it was his part to com- 
fort the one who remained at home. 

The farewells were over quickly, and Dostoevsky went back to 
his cell. Shortly afterward he left it again for the last time. It was 
precisely midnight, the hour that ushered in the birthday of his 
Saviour, when he was clamped into irons. They weighed ten pounds 
and made it hard for him to walk. It was usual for convicts to tramp 
the long trail to Siberia. Dostoevsky, with his comrades, was spared 
this ordeal. He left the fortress seated beside a gendarme in an 
open sleigh. There were two more sleighs, holding Durov and an- 
other convict, with a courier leading the way. 

It was mild and clear, and the air must have throbbed with the 
booming of innumerable church bells. The holy night was upon 
Petersburg. Dostoevsky's heart was heavy; small anxieties pricked 
him. But the fresh air and the swift soft movement were easing 
the aches and longings. A kind of calm elation filled him He 
looked with steady intentness at the houses that he knew by heart, 
each lit for the festival, at the passing streets that were part of the 


life he was leaving behind: they were familiar and strangely dif- 
ferent. He said a mute good-bye to each. His way lay past Mikhail's 
lodgings and Krayevsky's apartment. Behind those gayly lighted 
windows were Mikhail's wife and children — they had been invited, 
his brother had told him, to the Christmas party. As his sleigh 
glided past the house, his heart was cruelly squeezed. Now it was 
out of sight. He must wrench himself away from it all, though it 
broke him. 


SUPPOSE the reprieve to have arrived too late and Dostoevsky 
to have been cut off from life at the age of twenty-eight. He 
would then have been remembered as a minor writer, having 
to his credit a handful of stories, a novelette, and one unfinished 
full-length novel — the fruit of less than half a dozen years of fe- 
verish labours. Actually he is remembered by work of far wider 
scope, greater complexity, and deeper significance. Yet these early 
writings deserve attention not only because they hold intimations 
of his later achievements, but also in their own right. They are not 
merely promise, but achievement. 

Poor Folk, the work with which he opened his career, lacks 
the obvious autobiographic cast which is common to first novels. It 
deals with a gentle copying clerk of middle age who takes upon 
himself the role of guardian of a young girl whom he might have 
married, had he been less miserably circumstanced. He is utterly 
lost when the girl, in her weakness and despair, becomes the bride 
of a well-to-do, coarse landowner, able to give her the creature 
comforts that are beyond the poor clerk's power to bestow. George 
Moore summed up this romance with his usual felicity thus: *'Mak- 
ar [the clerk] is one of life's convicts, Varvara is the mouse that 
comes for crumbs; and the end is the same: a better filled hand is 
extended to the mouse, and the mouse returns no more to cheer the 
cell's loneliness!" 

The hero is not a projection of the author's self, nor is the milieu 
one that he knew from first-hand experience. Here are none of the 
earmarks of a young man's production. This is a work of pathos 
rather than of passion. The characters live not the life of the 
senses, but of the sentiments. For a love story, it is curiously sex- 
less. The attitude of the poor clerk toward his correspondent — 
the tale is told in letters — is half avuncular, half maternal. Indeed, 



it is not surprising that a contemporary reviewer thought he saw in 
it the hand of a young lady. There is something vague and soft 
about it, and in spite of sordid details, it leaves the impression of a 
pastel in lavender and grey. The competence with which the char- 
acters are realized is the chief token of the young novelist's genius. 

Dostoevsky followed up Poor Folk with a work of a totally 
different cast: "The Double." The first is transparent and shallow; 
the second has its opacities and profundities. Of the two pieces, 
"The Double" is the more original, if the less readable. It is a study 
in mental derangement — maniacal psychosis, to be exact — and as 
such the marvel of the psychopathologists. One Golyadkin, a Gov- 
ernment clerk in a subordinate position, invites himself to a dinner 
party given by his chief, and upon being refused admittance, steals 
into the ballroom for the dance that follows, only to be shame- 
fully ejected. He does these things half against his will, com- 
pelled, as it were, by a malevolent force. Then, as though sym- 
bolizing his divided state, his double appears on the scene. This 
double is in some respects the image of what Golyadkin would 
himself choose to be: a man possessed of savoir-faire, a free and 
easy fellow, able to insinuate himself into the good graces of his 
superiors. From the beginning Golyadkin is naturaly the butt and 
victim of this figment of his imagination. Suffering from a grow- 
ing delusion that the world is in league against him, he comes to 
beheve that his double is his most dangerous rival and the chief 
tool of his persecutors. After a series of adventures, half real, half 
illusory, Golyadkin, as the tale concludes, is helped by his double 
into a carriage which takes him to a lunatic asylum. 

The compulsive behaviour of Dostoevsky's hero, the relation be- 
tween his sense of insufficiency and his delusion of grandeur, the 
progress of his persecution mania — all this is handled with re- 
markable understanding. This story by a young man of twenty- 
five reveals an uncanny knowledge of the working of a diseased 
mind. It is hard to say how much of this knowledge was the fruit 
of self-knowledge. He did speak of "The Double" as "a confession." 
The theme of the story — that of a man in conflict with his double 
— may have been suggested to him by his reading, particularly 
Hoffman. The story, however, was less the product of literature 
than of experience, reflecting as it did the dangerous movements of 


a soul bent. Narcissuslike, over itself. It is a subject from which a 
man of Dostoevsky's temperament might well have shrunk. The 
fact that he was able to delve into these matters and even to inject 
some of the classic humour of the situation into his tale argues 
that when he occupied himself with it he had the requisite degree 
of mental stability. It is noteworthy that he only attempted it after 
he was heartened by the enthusiastic reception of Poor Folk. Fur- 
ther, it is probable that the writing of it helped to sustain him, and 
postponed the breakdown which he suffered later. Having pro- 
jected certain abnormal tendencies of his own, he was, if only for 
a time, free of them. In fine, "The Double" tapped a deeper level 
of the author's mind than its predecessor did, and was more clearly 
prophetic of his powers as a master of psychology. 

Dostoevsky recognized the shortcomings of his story. It was 
tedious in the telling, and hallucination and reality were not made 
to dovetail sufficiendy well. At the same time he knew that in "The 
Double" he had hit upon a theme of true originality and importance. 
Many years afterwards he planned to rewrite the piece, so as to 
bring out its latent possibilities. He did not carry out his intention, 
but variations on the theme run through his mature work. 

In his next piece, "Mr. Prokharchin," he worked the same vein 
that he had explored in "The Double." Here too the character 
around whom the lugubrious story revolves is a petty clerk, an 
utterly insignificant, utterly lonely creature, cut off from his kind. 
He is even more humbly circumstanced than the man pursued by 
his double and, indeed, ostensibly possesses nothing but a box with 
a German lock. The box contains only rags, but his dirty mattress 
proves to be stuffed with coin. His hoarding grows out of his 
morbid fear of want, and the money is doubly precious to him, 
as it is a crutch for his tottering ego. Malicious waggery on t^e 
part of his fellow-roomers throws him into a panic about the little 
security that he has. In his delirium, his latent sense of guilt asserts 
itself. His reason goes, and death follows his mental collapse. The 
glint and clink of gold are seldom absent from I>ostoevsky's pages: 
as he was constantly plagued by the need of money, so too he was 
haunted by the idea of its peculiar power, here for the first time a 
dominant note. 



Shortly after the completion of "Mr. Prokharchin," Dostoevsky, 
as will be recalled, attempted a new story, which he called "The 
Shaved Whiskers," but gave it up in disgust, as a mere repetition 
of what he had previously done. For a while he tried his hand at 
journalism, publishing four feuilletons in the daily, Sanktpeter- 
burgskie vedomosti (St. Petersburg Bulletin). The genre, then 
flourishing in France, was becoming popular in Russia. What at- 
tracted him to this type of writing was its informal, intimate tone, 
its easy freedoms, the opportunities it offered for setting down 
random opinions, observations, fantasies. He was to return to it in 
later years, enlarging his scope. 

When he returned to fiction, it was to start out on a new tack. 
His next work, "The Landlady," is quite unlike the writing that 
preceded it in its departure from the realistic method. It is a melo- 
dramatic tale, teeming with madness and mystery. Ordynov, a 
young recluse, who lives with his books and his dreams, is drawn 
out of his self-communings by a weird amorous adventure. The 
beautiful creature who is the object of his ecstasies is under the 
spell of an old man gifted with occult powers and subject to epileptic 
seizures. She, too, has strange fits caused by her belief that she is 
responsible for the death of her parents. And as for Ordynov, 
he passes from one sinking spell to another. Is the wild story of 
her life, as she relates it to the half delirious Ordynov, the invention 
of a madwoman? Is her aged husband the quondam brigand and 
assassin that she makes him out to be? Did the old man actually 
try to shoot Ordynov, and did Ordynov really attempt to knife 
the old man? It was not the author's intention to furnish an answer 
to these questions. There is a constant confusion of fact with the 
stuff of revery. The story concludes with the parting of the young 
people, and Ordynov is abruptly thrust back into the state of self- 
centred brooding in which he was first found. What had drawn him 
had been not a true light but a will-o'-the-wisp; robbed of it, he 
sank back into a deeper shadow. 

Belinsky said of the story that it was "a monstrosity," and that 
there was not a word in it that was not false, stilted, and artificial. 


One cannot agree with this harsh judgement. Looking closely at 
this strange narrative, one finds here and there a hint of power, a 
token of startling insight. There is something at once original and 
authentic in the description of Ordynov's delirium. One is brought 
up short by the girFs confession that at bottom she cherishes her 
shame — an attitude of which more will be heard later — and by the 
old man's casual remark that freedom is an unendurable burden to 
the weak spirit, an idea to which Dostoevsky will return. Indeed, 
both Ordynov and the young woman, with whom he falls in love, 
exemplify the tragedy of the faint heart. 

The author was shrewd enough to recognize that the romantic 
vein exploited in "The Landlady'' was foreign to him. In his next 
story, "Polzunkov," he returned to his first manner and offered 
a character study of great inwardness. The central figure is a man 
who habitually makes a clown of himself in order to borrow a few 
roubles from the people whom he amuses. At the same time he feels 
shame for those whom he provokes to this ugly laughter and 
snatches eagerly at any fig leaf to cover his moral nakedness. His 
effort, while making a butt of himself, to win a grain of respect from 
those who jeer at him is a disturbing and pathetic spectacle. The 
protagonist of the story may have been related to the drunkard who 
haunted the Petersburg suburb in which Dostoevsky spent the sum- 
mer of 1847. When other sources failed, the wretch would canvass 
the cottages, offering to flog himself for a consideration. Dostoevsky 
took up a collection for him. 

In the tale that followed, "A Faint Heart," Dostoevsky is again 
dealing with insanity. Once more the main character is a humble 
copying clerk, a young man with a gentle spirit and a sad flaw 
in his make-up. Feeling himself a nonentity, he is literally over- 
whelmed with gratitude for what he conceives to be undeserved 
good fortune and by his inability to express that gratitude. His 
mind breaks under the strain, not of suffering, but of happiness. 

Unlike most of the early stories, "An Honest Thief," which ap- 
peared next, deals not with petty officials or intellectuals, but with 
a man of the people. The tale is told by a veteran who has turned 
tailor to support himself in his old age. It has to do with a drunken 
derelict whom the tailor had taken in and allowed to live on his 
charity. The wretch repaid this kindness by stealing a pair of 


riding-breeches his benefactor had made for a customer, and did 
not confess until remorse brought him literally to his death-bed. 
Here is another broken soul that has no power to mend itself. 
In the original version the narrator appends a moral to the tale: 
that the death of the poor devil attested to the human dignity that 
he had all but forfeited by his crime, and that vice is not a native 
element of human nature. Dostoevsky wisely omitted this post- 
script in the later editions of this well-rounded and moving story, 
probably realizing that the tale itself pointed the moral with suffi- 
cient clarity and force. As for the successor to this piece, "A Christ- 
mas Tree and a Wedding," which exposes the ugly character of a 
schemer who manages to marry an heiress young enough to be 
his daughter, one might be inclined to neglect it altogether as a 
bagatelle, were it not that these few pages carry, however lightly, 
the suggestion of that sexual interest in a child on the part of an 
adult which recurs not infrequently in his mature writings. 

"White Nights,'' the last of his early stories, if one excepts the 
piece he wrote in prison, presents a situation similar to that retailed 
in "The Landlady." The difference is that here the action is within 
the range of the usual and the characters are within the range of 
the nomial. The hero, as in the other story, is a daydreamer, un- 
fitted for life, who falls in love, only to lose his lady, and retire 
again into himself. During the brief period of his happiness it is 
as though the mists of fantasy had melted from before his eyes 
and he feels himself at last a man among men. The ghost, having, 
as it were, drunk of human passion, is about to take on flesh. But 
no! The girl, who loves another from whom she has been sepa- 
rated, is beginning to reciprocate his affection when her beloved 
returns and carries her off. What seemed to have the heat and 
colour of reality proves a mirage. The experience leaves the young 
man sadder but not sourer, and the piece ends on a note of gentle 
resignation that is in key with the wistful tone of the entire story. 


If that winter morning on Semyonov Square had been Dostoev- 
sky 's last, we should have had no full-length novel from his pen, 
but only the torso of one, namely, the ill-fated Netochka Nezvanova. 


He began to hatch the plan for a big novel soon after the publica- 
tion of "The Double." Before long he was speaking of a novel in 
four parts which was ripe in his mind and which he expected to 
write in Italy. It gave him no rest. The final issue of Fatherland 
Notes for 1846 carried an announcement that ''Netochka Nezva- 
nova, a novel by Dostoevsky" would run in the magazine the next 
year, and indeed he obligated himself to deliver the first instabnent 
of the work on January 5, 1847. But it did not materialize, and the 
final issue for that year again contained a notice promising it to 
the subscribers the following year. The first instalment which includ- 
ed two parts, did not appear until 1849, and at the time of his 
arrest he was up to his neck in the writing of another instalment. 
The third part appearing without his signature while he was in 
prison awaiting sentence, he read it in his cell with some misgivings, 
since he had not seen it through the press. There were to be at least 
three more parts, but presumably since too much had happened to 
him in the interim, when he returned to literature he did not take 
up the work where he had been forced to drop it. Neverthless, he 
allowed a revised version of the incomplete novel to appear in his 
collected works. The revision was chiefly in the nature of cutting, an 
entire incident being omitted from the text. 

In Netochka Nezvanova he attempted an ambitious work with 
a complicated plot. Originally the novel had as its sub-title "The 
History of a Woman." It is a somewhat loose-jointed affair and, 
indeed, even in its present fragmentary shape contains three dis- 
tinct themes. The first is the tragic story of a musician with a great 
talent which through a fatal weakness in his nature he allows to 
go to waste. The second theme is the childhood of his little step- 
daughter, Netochka, who is morbidly attached to him, and who, 
when he dies of "acute mania," is adopted into an aristocratic fam- 
ily, where she forms a passionate affection for the small daughter 
of the house. The third has to do with the consequences of a sus- 
pected infidelity on the part of the lady who is so tenderly bring- 
ing up the waif. Here for the first time Dostoevsky uses a myste- 
rious letter as part of the machinery of his plot. The procedure 
is clumsy, and in every respect this third part is the weakest. 

The tale is chiefly remarkable for the illumination of the emo- 
tional and imaginative life of children, its intensity, sensuality, and 


paradoxical ambivalence. Netochka, as a little girl, loves her step- 
father with a strange passion grounded in pity. All her joy is to 
think of him. She imagines him to be a harassed sufferer, abused 
by her mother, and accordingly conceives a deep hatred for that 
unfortunate woman. She is driven in upon herself, gradually loses 
contact with reality, and moves in a world of fantasy. Her relation 
with the proud little princess, like that with her father previously, is 
in the nature of a love affair having all the tokens of adolescent 
passion. The little princess, too, adores her own father, has strained 
relations with her mother, and feels a violent affection for Netochka, 
although this love for some time disguises itself as hatred. 

Originally Dostoevsky intended to give Netochka a male counter- 
part. The passage in which this character was introduced figures 
only in the text of the novel as published serially, having been 
omitted from the revised version. Like Netochka, he is a poor 
orphan, a crushed and terror-stricken little creature rescued by the 
prince from a life among hostile strangers. With great difficulty 
Netochka wins his confidence, and he tells her that at the bottom 
of his misery is the unbearable thought that he is partly responsible 
for the death of his parents — they died within a few days of each 
other. He confesses to Netochka that out of sheer selfishness he 
had practically tormented his father and mother to death, but the 
little girl sees more deeply into the situation. She understands that 
he really loved his parents, but out of a desire to realize fully their 
devotion to him, he perversely made them suffer on his account. 
At the same time his confession awakens her to the consciousness 
of the suffering that she had caused her own mother, and arouses in 
her a like feehng of guilt. 

At the outset Dostoevsky had spoken of the novel as "a con- 
fession." In the story of the unfortunate musician with which it 
opens there are passages which have an autobiographic ring. It is 
more probable, however, that in portraying the inner life of Net- 
ochka, of the little girl with whom she was in love, of the little boy 
who was to be the hero, he was unburdening his heart of the tan- 
gled emotions that belonged to his own early years. Certainly he 
could not draw upon observation. While he was writing the story 
he was living outside of a domestic circle, and most of his friends 
were young unmarried men like himself. He saw little of Mikhail's 


children and had been separated for years from his own small 
brothers and sisters. It is hard to see how he could have written 
some of these pages without an extraordinarily clear retrospective 
view of his own childhood. 

Netochka Nezvanova reveals such an interest in, and understand- 
ing of, both childhood and early adolescence that it is not sur- 
prising to find "The Little Hero," the piece which he wrote in 
the fortress, dealing with a similar theme. "The Little Hero" is the 
story of an eleven-year-old boy's first experience of falling in love, 
an experience which, alike in its raptures and its agonies, held a 
troubling foretaste of maturity. A wistful note steals into the nar- 
rative toward the end, but the setting is a country house where ele- 
gant ladies and handsome men are gathered for a festive occasion, 
and a brightness appropriate to the tale, if unusual with the author, 
lies on the story like a bloom. The introduction, which was omitted 
from the final version, is in the form of a monologue, in which 
the narrator, sitting before the fire of a wintry night, while the 
storm drubs the pane "with bony fingers," soliloquizes on the kind 
of tale that he is going to offer his companion, a girl on the thresh- 
old of womanhood. It is to be a story not so long-winded as to 
allow her to lose interest, not so moving as to draw tears, or yet so 
amusing as to rouse laughter, not frightening, because last night 
she had had bad dreams — in short, something quiet, soothing, and 
withal fascinating. As he delimits the tale in this fashion, one 
imagines Dostoevsky himself setting forth the requirements as to 
the kind of fantasy that he dares play with in his lonely cell. The 
narrative thus seems to have offered the author a refuge from his 
own sorry situation, but this in no wise detracts from its signifi- 
cance as a study of the awakening of the senses in a young boy. 


It is fairly clear from these early stories what were the literary 
influences that worked upon Dostoevsky. The major force in Rus- 
sian letters at this time was the romantic humorist, Gogol, who 
ushered in the age of prose that followed Pushkin's death. It should 
be rememebered that Turgenev was still a mere budding author 
and Tolstoy, a lad in his late teens, was occupied with the studies 


and amusements of an undergraduate. In dubbing Dostoevsky **a 
second Gogol," his contemporaries were referring to certain tricks 
of style, but more particularly to the fact that he chose to deal with 
those humbly stationed characters who were the stock figures of the 
so-called Natural school. It is not difficult to discover traces of the 
foreign authors that he devoured so greedily — the fantast, Hoffman, 
as well as the sensational and sentimental writers of both France and 
England. But it is harder to catch him in the act of paying the 
tribute of imitation to his youthful idols, Schiller and Balzac. 

Superficially less of the stuff of Dostoevsky's personal history 
found its way into these stories than is usually the case with a man's 
early writings. Many of the things that filled his hours are absent 
from his pages. Thus, one would not guess from them that he had 
ever studied military engineering, or that most of his acquaintances 
were cultivated, and some comfortably situated people. That he 
kept out of his work the dangerous social and political ideas that 
were bandied about at Petrashevsky's and elsewhere is not surpris- 
ing. Under Nicholas I such notions could not find their way into 
print. At the same time there were means, for those who sought 
them earnestly, of expressing, if indirectly, a protest against social 
evils, and indeed, many of those who read Poor Folk in Nekrasov's 
miscellany saw in it an indictment of the social order which pro- 
duces such wretchedness. Yet with each successive story Dostoev- 
sky made it harder for his readers to see in his work anything 
approaching criticism of the system under which he was living. 

It is only when one looks closely at the writings of this first 
period, that one discovers here and there settings and situations 
that are directly traceable to his own experiences. The gleaming 
field of the frozen Neva; the black canals with their lean lamp- 
posts along the embankments; the Petersburg streets in all seasons 
and all weathers, but chiefly at dusk, and when the granite is wet 
underfoot and the sooty houses loom dark and bulky on the river- 
front; damp, filthy, ill-smelling stairways leading to rooms with 
grimy green walls which exude a putrid odour — these made the 
familiar framework of his own days. It is not implausible that the 
match in Poor Folk had some distant connection with his young sis- 
ter's marriage to the middle-aged Karepin, especially as the situa- 
tion repeats itself in Dostoevsky's later work. Ill health, particularly 


nervous ailments, is the lot of several of his characters, as it was his 
own. They suffer from severe depressions and have moments of 
ecstasy when their consciousness is almost unbearably intensified — 
states that he also knew. The flaneur in *'The Landlady" who "did 
not miss a single impression and looked with thoughtful eyes into the 
faces of passing people, watched the characteristic aspect of every- 
thing around him, and listened lovingly to the speech of the peo- 
ple, as though verifying in everything the conclusions that had 
been formed in the stillness of solitary nights" — this flaneur walked 
in the shoes of Fyodor Dostoevsky. One cannot escape the feeling 
that the delirious dream of this character is based upon the author's 
actual experience. The narrator in "White Nights" who knows some 
houses in Petersburg so intimately that they seem to him almost 
human is also no other than Dostoevsky: is he not said to have 
walked miles just to see a particular building in a certain light? 

The hero of "White Nights," as well as the hero of "The Land- 
lady," resembled him in a more fundamental respect. Like these 
creations of his, he too was a man who wasted himself in daydream- 
ing. But unlike them, he recognized the dangers he incurred and 
was able to overcome them, though perhaps not as fully as he 
believed. Maturity, tardy and incomplete though it was, brought him 
a saving sense of reality. The very bitterness with which he harped 
upon this theme indicates how deeply he had suffered from the 
ravages of fantasy. Both "White Nights" and "The Landlady," it 
will be remembered, are stories of men who shipwrecked on the 
coast of dreams. In each case, the failure of the young man to win 
a woman seems to be symbolic of his fatal inability to become suffi- 
ciently attached to anything outside of himself. At the time when 
Dostoevsky was busy with the latter tale he was writing to Mik- 
hail about the risks involved in a surrender to fantasy, and the 
necessity for establishing a balance between the inner life and 
that other existence in which one must cope with the actual world. 
It was evident that he knew whereof he spoke. One of his feuille- 
tons mentioned above offered an anatomy of daydreaming that 
he later incorporated into "White Nights" in an expanded and 
slightly altered form. He was undoubtedly helped in this dissec- 
tion by his gift for self-analysis. 

The dreamer, he wrote, is a man with a lust for life but with 


a weakness in his make-up that hinders him from satisfying his 
appetites. They come to depend for food upon his imagination. 
His fantasy is nimble, mercurial, febrile. It seizes upon a hint, a 
nothing, and builds an airy world, staging melodramatic conflicts 
within it on a heroic scale. Space shrinks, time abdicates. No 
fabulous island is too remote for the dreamer's habitation. He 
packs a lifetime into an hour. Thrilled and soothed by his reveries, 
he craves more and more these insubstantial excitements, without 
allowing himself to become aware of the poisons his self-indul- 
gence is distilling. With the exaltation of a lover yet with the self- 
absorption and instability of a child, he leads his inane existence. 
Gradually, he loses his sense of the actual, and that moral instinct 
which holds reality inviolate. Life wears a hostile look for him. 
He walks through it with averted eyes, dreading every new situa- 
tion, fearful of having to meet the world on its own terms. Fancy- 
ing himself in a golden nook, the haunted troglodyte does not see 
that he is living in a dingy corner. 

Dostoevsky came to believe that it was something in the nature 
of a sudden illumination that freed him from the dangers of idle 
revery. Only yesterday he had been living among ghosts, fancying 
himself a Pericles, a Marius, a Christian martyr, a knight riding 
into the lists, a hero out of Walter Scott. And suddenly men and 
women of flesh and blood swam into his view — ordinary people 
with whom he rubbed elbows, but who were none the less fan- 
tastic creatures. It was as though in a flash he understood that a 
simple clerk, a poor student, was as remarkable, as strange, as 
absorbing, as any figure in history or romance, if one but tried to 
plumb the secret of his being. His imaginative passion now fast- 
ened not upon the figments of his youthful fancy, but on the lodger 
next door, the child on the wooden pavement below. He shook off 
the stupor of the daydreamer, and gained a foothold on the com- 
mon earth. His fantasy had been like a plant with aerial roots; now 
it was gripping the soil. 

The episode that he thought marked this crucial point in his 
development occurred in his early manhood. He described it in 
the course of a chatty essay he contributed to a magazine many 
years later. The description, oddly enough, includes a passage on 
the appearance of the Neva in the winter dusk lifted bodily out 


of his early story, "The Faint Heart.'* On a bitter January evening 
as he was hurrying home, he halted on the river-front to watch 
the sunset sky. The smoke was building an ethereal city above the 
snow-locked streets and the glittering river, and the real city looked 
as insubstantial as a dream. It was one of those moments when the 
world sets the senses vibrating so exquisitely that they seem to be 
keyed to a truth beyond their grasp. Ambiguous though his report 
of the experience is, the implication seems to be clear: he was 
startled into a perception of the mysterious, the fantastic, quality of 
reality itself. From that wintry sunset on the Neva — he called the 
moment a vision — he dated the beginning of his "existence": his 
birth as a writer. 

Dostoevsky's first story does appear to be the work of a man 
who suddenly becomes aware of the humdrum life around him, 
not as something to eschew, but as something to marvel at and 
pore over. Yet the impulse behind most of his early work was not 
so much a desire to retail the circumstances of the lodger next 
door and the child on the wooden pavement below. What worked 
itself out here was a curiosity about the naked self, particularly 
in a diseased state. Underlying his understanding of others was his 
insight into certain dispositions and emotional mechanisms of his 
own. From the first, literature was for him not escape from him- 
self, but rather a form of confession. He used that term in speak- 
ing of at least two of his more important stories. 

At this early period the avowals are indirect, veiled, ambiguous. 
One is struck by the fact that many of these tales deal with humble, 
helpless people, people with a weak hold on reality, personalities 
so defective that they break down readily under strain, so stunted 
that they are doomed to solitude. It is conceivable that in identify- 
ing himself with these dwarfed, thwarted souls Dostoevsky was 
gratifying his secret sense of his own insufficiency. His interest in 
the theme of "The Double" — an interest that was to remain with him 
to the last — may have fed on an awareness of the duality of his 
own nature. A sick soul, divided against itself, may project its 
division in the form of a "double," which assumes a distressing 
reality for the sufferer; the artist, tormented by a similar split in 
his nature, follows a similar process, but is able to reduce his 
double to a mere symbol and to confine it within the bounds of a 


work of the imagination. As has already been indicated, these 
studies of men wrecked by their inability to meet life on its own 
terms had for him a therapeutic value. That they should conclude 
with remarkable disclosures of what lies in the hearts of children 
seems only natural. It was as though Dostoevsky in trying to under- 
stand himself was moving up the stream of his memories to its 


THE SLOW frosty dawn of a brilliant winter day was just break- 
ing as the little caravan of sleighs approached the town 
of Schlusselburg. The travellers had made the forty miles 
from Petersburg in a night. The trip in the open air had given a 
sharp edge to Dostoevsky's appetite, and he attacked his break- 
fast as though he had gone without food for a week. The heart- 
ache he had felt on leaving Petersburg had somehow been eased by 
the journey, and the brisk weather and the glimpses of Christmas 
trees heartened him. The sun shone on the clean snow and brought 
out the colour in the scarlet sashes of the grey-kaftaned drivers — 
they changed at every station. What with the holiday, food at the 
roadside inns was plentiful, and through the generosity of the 
Goverrmient courier, a friendly old soul, they were provided with 
good meals. The sleighs glided on, past snowbound villages and 
forlorn towns, first in a southerly direction, and then straight east, 
against the sun. Choosing the less frequented roads, they followed 
virtually the very route traversed by those aristocratic convicts, the 
Decembrists, a quarter of a century earlier. As the days wore 
on, the cold became unendurable, and they were transferred to 
covered sleighs. In spite of this Dostoevsky froze "to the heart.'' 
In the province of Perm one night they struck Arctic weather 
— forty degrees below zero. He did not know how he lived through 

As he put home further behind him, his mood sagged. The party 
was in the Ural Mountains, crossing the borderhne between the 
two continents, when it was caught in a snowstorm. The sleighs 
stuck in the drifts, and the convicts had to clamber out — a clumsy 
job, what with the heavy irons on their legs. While the drivers 
were struggling with the horses and the vehicles, Dostoevsky stood 
still and peered into the tossing night. Behind him lay Europe and 



his past, before him stretched Siberia, as dark as his future. His eyes 

He did not get a taste of the life that awaited him until he 
reached Tobolsk. It was then mid-January. The Tobolsk prison 
was a cross between a clearing house of crime and a hostelry for 
transient convicts. Before being assigned to their respective places 
of confinement or exile, all the condemned spent a brief period 
in these vile, congested, dilapidated cells. Dostoevsky and his two 
comrades were first taken to a large chamber, crowded with pris- 
oners of both sexes and all ages. Some were having half of their 
heads shaved, as was prescribed, some were being clapped into 
irons, others, ready for the march to their final destination, were 
being chained in groups to an iron rod. In the foul air, against the 
grimy walls, these grotesque heads, these branded brows, these 
brutish snouts, were frightening to behold. Yet for Dostoevsky 
there must have been, as an antidote to his horror, that mixture of 
tenderness and curiosity that he had always felt in the presence of 
the humbled. Soon he would be one of them. Did the thought carry 
with it an overtone of bitter satisfaction? 

There was little time for reflection. Dostoevsky and his com- 
panions were searched, a process during which he was relieved 
of all the money he had on his person, and then the three of them, 
half frozen and dog-tired, were locked into a cold cell together. 
Durov lay down on the bench that served as a bed. Dostoevsky 
and the other man, Jastrzembski, crouched on the dirty floor. It 
was a black hour. Jastrzembski spoke of suicide. Dostoevsky tried 
to put heart into him — of the three he was the least depressed. 
Finally, solace came in the shape of hot tea and a candle. Jastr- 
zembski had been deprived of the rum he had bought at Kazan, 
but Dostoevsky still had a few cigars in his pocket, and what with 
the hot drink and the light and the tobacco, there was a kind of 
conviviality in the foul, narrow room. 

The half dozen days that he had to stay here were not utterly 
bleak. Some of the Decembrists had settled in this Siberian town 
with their families, and the womenfolk, who with such high forti- 
tude had followed their exiled husbands into the wilderness, made 
an opportunity to mother this new generation of political pris- 
oners. Dostoevsky, like the five or six other members of Petra- 


shevsky's circle who were temporarily confined here, received food 
at their hands, and warm clothing, of which he was in sore need. 
Above all, these contacts gave him the feeling that there were 
people beyond the walls to whom the prisoners were still human 
beings. These ladies — they were the wives and daughters of aris- 
tocrats — engineered a meeting with the prisoners at the warden's 
house. They tried to encourage the men, offered them practical 
advice, and gave each a copy of the New Testament, the only book 
permitted in prison. They took occasion to warn Dostoevsky — to- 
gether with Durov he was to do his term at Omsk — that the warden 
there, a Major Krivtzov, was an ugly customer, whose viciousness 
was as limitless as his power over the convicts, and he was an auto- 
crat of the prison. It was a cheerless prospect, and such glimpses as 
Dostoevsky caught of the men with whom he was to spend the next 
four years of his life chilled him to the bone. 

One of the ladies who was especially kind to the Omsk convicts 
was Natalia Dmitrievna Fonvizina. She had high connections, 
being related to the Governor General of Western Siberia, and was 
therefore in a particularly happy position to help Dostoevsky. When 
the time came for him and Durov to set out for Omsk, Mme. Fon- 
vizina, with a friend, saw the two of them off. It was an irregular 
procedure, but the ladies made sure that the escorting gendarmes 
should be complaisant. One of them was to transmit a letter from 
Mme. Fonvizina to an influential friend at Omsk, in which she 
begged him to take an interest in the two prisoners. In a bitter frost, 
the two women waited on the high road, several miles from the 
town, having taken care to leave their sleigh a good distance behind 
them, so that there should be no witness to the meeting. The troikas 
bearing the convicts halted, and with some clanging of irons the 
men climbed out to say their last farewells. Compared to Durov, 
with his regular features and black beard just then covered with 
icicles, Dostoevsky, in his heavy sheepskin coat and fur cap with 
earlaps, looked rather homely, frail, slight, and young. 


When for the first time he lay down on the bare planks that 
for four years were to serve him as a bed, covering himself as best 


he might with his short sheepskin coat, he was fairly sick with the 
impressions of the day. It was afternoon when they had driven into 
the town of Omsk, a three days' journey from Tobolsk. They had 
at once been taken before the major of whom they had been warned. 
The pimpled purple face with eyes that glared maliciously through 
spectacles made Dostoevsky think of a spider about to pounce on 
a fly. The man was all he had been painted. Before dismissing them 
he promised them the lash for the slightest misdemeanour. 

At the guardhouse E>ostoevsky was shaved on one side of the 
head in the fashion prescribed for civilian convicts. All his own 
clothes were taken away from him — the major had told him plainly 
that a convict had no property — and he was given a parti-coloured 
suit of grey and black, with a yellow diamond on the back, a cap to 
match, and a new sheepskin coat. He was to change his linked fetters 
for irons made of rods, which were worn under the trousers and 
were less clumsy for work, but this was to wait till the next morning. 

The short winter day had already turned to dusk when he passed 
through the sentinel-guarded gate and found himself within the high 
prison enclosure. The convicts were returning from work under 
escort and falling in, preparatory to roll-call. A bewhiskered non- 
commissioned officer opened the door of the prison barracks, a long, 
low log house, and Dostoevsky got his first sickening whiff of prison 
air. All at once the low-ceiled room, dark except for the light of 
a few tallow candles, filled up with men, and the stench thickened. 
Then the doors were locked for the night. Dostoevsky, Hke everyone 
else, had three planks on which to stretch his sore body, soaked 
with iodine and mercury. Until sleep released him, he must struggle 
to breathe this air, heavy with the smells of unwashed bodies, of 
vile smoke, and of the uncovered night-pot in the ante-room, must 
watch with scared greedy eyes the haggard branded faces, the ragged 
grimy figures, and, even when he lay with closed lids, must listen 
to the oaths, the guffaws, the thin clank of irons. 

He awoke in the dark, shivering with cold. A drum beat the 
reveille at the prison gate, and the doors were being unlocked. 
The air was chilly and intolerably foul. The convicts stretched and 
yawned, sullen with sleep. They crowded around the two pails 
of water. Each one took the dipper, filled his mouth with water, 
and washed his face and hands from his mouth. There was wran- 


gling over the single dipper. Breakfast consisted of bread and kvass. 
To get it, Dostoevsky followed the other prisoners across the yard 
in the grey light of dawn to a neighbouring building, which was at 
once kitchen and messroom. While the others were mustered out 
to work beyond the walls, he was sent to the smithy to have his 
fetters changed. The first three days a convict was allowed to rest 
from the fatigues of the journey, and so he returned to the barracks. 
He got there near mess hour, when some of the prisoners were 
already coming back from work. 

In all his comings and goings he was conscious of hostile eyes 
furtively watching him, this newcomer, this "gentleman." But 
there were a few convicts who, smelling money on the "gentle- 
man" — he had indeed succeeded in smuggling in a few roubles in 
the binding of his New Testament — made up to him, showing him 
how to wear the fetters, procuring a box with a lock on it for his 
clothes, helping him to get a teapot of his own, as many of the 
prisoners managed to do. After mess, when he had gagged over 
the cockroaches in the cabbage soup, he was able to comfort him- 
self and Durov with a pot of tea. The two of them were sitting 
quietly over their cups when a convict, a slouching hulk of a man, 
furious with drink, lumbered into the messroom, followed by an 
entertainer in the shape of a little fellow with a fiddle, also a con- 
vict. At once the giant, Gazin by name, began taunting the two 
tea-drinkers, for whom the prison fare was not good enough. Dosto- 
evsky and his companion thought best to ignore the bully, and this 
enraged him further. He snatched up the first weapon that came to 
hand — ^a huge, heavy tray. The rest did not move a finger to defend 
the newcomers. For a breathless second it seemed as though the 
two of them would have their heads bashed in. A sudden shout from 
the passage: "Gazin, your vodka's stolen!" diverted his attention 
at the crucial instant and saved them. That evening after dusk 
Dostoevsky walked beside the fence, and with a sick heart pondered 
the day behind him and the years ahead, until the drum summoned 
him back to his second night in the barracks. 

The adjustment to his new surroundings was painful in the ex- 
treme. He suffered cruelly in mind and body. Soon after his arrival 
in the prison, authorities there had been informed that it was the 
emperor's will that both Dostoevsky and Durov should be shown 


no leniency, but should be treated as convicts "in the full sense of 
the word." Major Krivtzov, "Eight-Eyes," as the inmates called 
the warden because of his eyeglasses, needed no such injunction: 
spiteful, vengeful, unrestrained, he behaved as though all the 
prisoners without distinction were his natural enemies. He would 
have a man flogged for sleeping on his right side, because, he said, 
Christ slept on his left, and so everyone should do likewise. True, 
several influential persons were disposed in Dostoevsky's favour, 
but they were practically powerless in a town crawling with syco- 
phants and self-appointed spies. At one time some officers on guard 
duty went out of their way to spare him certain hardships, but he 
seemed to resent their kindness. It was as though he took a bitter 
pleasure in his sufferings. For a while he did clerical work in the 
prison office, but this did not last long. He bore the full brunt of 
penal servitude. He was doing his term in a fortress prison, which, 
being subject to a strict military regime, was worse than the Siber- 
ian civil prisons connected with mines or mills. He was always in 
the prison motley, with half -scraped head, always in irons, always 
under guard, always under lock and key when not at work. The 
prison population was a mixed crowd, in which practically every 
type of criminal and every section of the immense country was 
represented. With the exception of Dostoevsky and Durov and a 
few Poles, who were also political offenders, all were common 
criminals — burglars, counterfeiters, murderers. "The devil must 
have worn out three pair of shoes before he brought us all here," 
they would say of themselves. 

They were herded in two decrepit log houses, long since con- 
demned as unfit for habitation. The ward to which Dostoevsky was 
assigned held about thirty men. Here they lived "all in a heap," 
as he put it. The roof leaked, and the walls were draughty. The 
wooden floor was rotten through and through and slippery with 
filth, though a convict was delegated to scrub it. As for the men, 
they got baths only on the eve of high holidays, and the dirty, 
steamy, crowded bath-house made Dostoevsky think hell must be 
something like that. The inmates stank "like swine," as he wrote 
to Mikhail, adding: "They say they can't help being swinish, for 
they're 'living human beings.' " In winter the tiny windows were 
always dimmed with thick frost, and the place was so cold that the 


water in the pails froze. The convicts did their laundry indoors, 
and the room was flooded with slops. The stove, for which only six 
logs were allotted at a time, gave off not so much heat as poisonous 
fumes, which at best produced a sick headache. The warm months 
were even more difficult to bear. The work day was longer and 
harder, and the nights were agony, what with the stifling air, and 
the sleeping-platform alive with fleas, lice, bedbugs, and cock- 
roaches that murdered sleep. 


Now he knew what it meant to be buried alive. It was as though 
the oldtime fears that had haunted the couch of the promising young 
author were realized. He was walled in, weighted down, encom- 
passed by a darkness that was all the more terrifying because it 
could not be struck at or wrestled with. Sometimes it was not the 
darkness of the grave but that of the jungle. He was surrounded by 
the faces of men like beasts. And what added to the nightmare 
quality of the experience, they were like one face, depraved, spiteful, 
cunning, cruel. 

Slowly his eyes grew used to the heavy gloom. The faces became 
distinct one from another, and began to look human. Here, it 
dawned upon him, were men much like himself. Were they not 
Russians? Were they not his brothers? He felt a strong curiosity 
about them, a deep kinship with these guilty ones. On the whole, the 
men behind the prison walls were no worse than those who re- 
mained outside. Indeed, he discovered among these jail-birds men 
of great spiritual strength, and some capable of the purest com- 
passion. Under the ugly exterior there was a native human excel- 
lence. There were criminals who commanded his respect, there 
were those who won his reluctant affection. 

Life in the prison was life still. It asserted itself in this bleak place 
like grass thrusting its way between slabs of granite. The brutal 
severity of the prison regimen was to some degree corrected by an 
equally incredible laxity and disregard of the rules and regulations. 
The convicts were not permitted to do any work for themselves or 
to own money. Nevertheless, as soon as the doors were locked for 
the evening, the barracks would turn into a humming workshop. 


Many pursued a craft, some engaged in buying and selling and in 
financial transactions of sorts, and there were even those who hired 
themselves out to their mates as entertainers, lookout men, and 
factotums. Everybody managed to earn something, and with the 
aid of the money secured some semblance of the amenities. They ate 
other than prison food. Cards, tobacco, and vodka were strictly 
forbidden, yet they gambled, smoked, and got drunk — and the more 
enterprising got themselves women. 

It is uncertain whether or not I>ostoevsky learned a craft well 
enough to ply it in prison. He did, however, generally have a little 
money in his pockets, and so lived up to his comrades' notion of 
him as a "gentleman." Like the others, he understood that money 
here was not merely a means of obtaining a few pleasures, but was 
doubly precious as a symbol of freedom, the dream even of the 
"lifers.'' The convicts sweated for money and seized upon it 
greedily, but they also used it in the most spendthrift fashion, fear- 
ing it would be snatched from them before they could enjoy it. 

Of course, all infringements of discipline were made under peril 
of reprisals. "Eight-Eyes" would descend like the wolf on the fold. 
Goods and money would be confiscated, and the offenders flogged. 
The high holidays, Christmas and Easter, were the rare occasions 
on which relaxation of discipline was, if not sanctioned, at least 
connived at by the prison officials. Sometimes even amateur theat- 
ricals were allowed, and then, if ever, the convicts forgot their 

Forced labour was the least harassing feature of the situation. 
Work, though compulsory, was in itself a purposeful and, to an 
extent, satisfying activity. True, occasionally one had to work in 
the open, exposed to the rain or to bitter cold. But generally, the 
conditions of labour were tolerable. Having no trade, Dostoevsky 
was listed in the prison register as a "common labourer." When 
he was with a gang, his fellows, out of spiteful contempt for the 
"gentleman," would try to prevent him from taking part in the 
common task, such as the wrecking of an old barge. What irked 
him was the thought that the prisoners who could not possibly be- 
lieve in a barin's readiness to get callouses on his hands were 
mistaking his zeal for an attempt to make up to them, and were thus 
justified in despising him. But he insisted on his rights to work, 


and in the end won out. He baked and pounded alabaster, turned 
a lathe in the prison workshop, carried bricks as a mason's appren- 
tice, shovelled snow. In his eagerness to work he was guided by a 
healthy instinct. He was obeying a lusty will to live. The rough 
physical labour toughened his body and saved him from too much 
brooding. To get away from the prison, to catch a glimpse, on the 
shores of Irtysh, of the prairie under the open sky and the 
smoke-blackened tent of a nomad, merely to be out of sight of the 
fortress, with its oppressive buildings, its sentinel endlessly pacing 
the earthen wall, this was to taste, in some measure, relief, to be 
strengthened against misery. 

There was one other escape. Occasionally, at night when sleep 
would not come, his imagination led him out of the foul gloom 
of the barracks. Scenes enacted themselves, characters wearing their 
fate like fetters worked out their destiny before his closed eyes. 
He elaborated certain ideas and trends of thought. Some of these 
imaginings had the quality and evanescence of dreams, but even 
though he could set nothing down, much of his mature work must 
have germinated in the darkness of those prison vigils. One night 
while he was lying on his hard planks, sunk in a mood of depres- 
sion and self -analysis, he conceived the idea for a great and pro- 
found novel. It was to be, of course, his "confession" and, at the 
same time, his supreme and final work. Was it the vast narrative 
that he outlined later under the title of The Life of a Great Sin- 
ner? There is a bare possibility that he even set down some notes on 
paper, but if he made any at all, they must have been few and 
scattered. What tormented him was the fear that his passion for 
the subject would have evaporated when he came to execute it. 
Not to be able to do more than think and plan was a terrible ordeal. 

His mental sufferings were aggravated by the implacable hostil- 
ity of his fellow convicts. A man of the people arriving in prison 
found himself among equals and was without question admitted 
into the confraternity. As a "gentleman," Dostoevsky was an out- 
cast among outcasts. At the end of his prison term, it seemed to 
him that he had lived all the time encompassed by an unyielding 
wall of hatred. "They would have devoured us if we had let them," 
he wrote Mikhail of himself and Durov. " *You, gentlefolk, have 
iron beaks, you've pecked us to death; you used to be masters and 


tortured the people, and now you're lower than the lowest, you're 
one of us!' — that's the theme on which variations were played for 
four years. A hundred and fifty enemies couldn't tire of persecution 
— it was their pleasure, diversion, occupation." This was painting 
the picture blacker than the reality. As a matter of fact, there were 
several of his fellows there who grew to be fond of him, and whose 
liking he returned. But even these always looked upon him as 
different from themselves, a member of another class. The chasm 
between the classes was never so clearly present to Dostoevsky as in 
this place and at this time. 

For his own part, he was eager to get close to these people. One 
Easter day, to escape the drinking, gambling, and fighting that 
marked the holiday in prison, he lay down on his cot, pretending 
sleep, and sank into memories of childhood. He remembered vividly 
the moment in the copse when he had been frightened by the cry of 
"wolf" and had run to the peasant Marey for protection. And as 
he sat up, roused by the remembrance, and looked at his fellow 
convicts, his hatred of them dropped away, and he asked himself 
if his shorn, branded neighbour hoarsely shouting a drunken song 
was not perhaps another Marey. It is doubtful, however, whether 
at this time he had that conviction of the virtues of the common 
people which was to become so firm an article of his creed. In any 
case, he could form no ties with his fellows. For one thing, he was 
unwilling to surrender any of the manners and opinions of a culti- 
vated man. He had, too, a sullen, forbidding demeanour that per- 
force made a solitary of him. Durov's companionship was no help — 
in fact, as time went on the two men came to hate each other as 
only those forced to live together can. 

Because of the unfriendly atmosphere, the lack of privacy was 
particularly trying. Never had he imagined the horrors inherent in 
this prison communism. There were times when he bitterly hated 
everyone around him, feeling that these forced companions were 
stealing his life from him. To be alone was as fundamental a need 
with him as the craving for food. He knew he was wrong, but he 
could not overcome his repugnance. 

There was one place of refuge, the military hospital located out- 
side the fortress. There was filth even there, in spite of a superficial 
tidiness, there were lice, there were the eternal fetters — they were 


































removed from the convict only after death — there was the tainted 
depressing air of the sick room. The days dragged on, long, dismal, 
monotonous, and the nights lay heavily on the sleepers and the 
sleepless alike. Yet, with the connivance of the doctors, who were 
equally kind to sick prisoners and to malingerers, Dostoevsky went 
there often. It was a change. There were new faces, the discipline 
was less severe, the food was less disgusting, and, above all, it 
offered an escape from the spite, the envy, the enmity. The prison- 
ers were treated more like human beings, and behaved more like 
them. All kinds and conditions of men were gathered here; local 
convicts, men on their way to other prisons, men who had just 
been sentenced, civilians and soldiers who were awaiting trial, 
prisoners from the disciplinary battalion. Men talked to each other 
more freely than they did in the barracks, and Dostoevsky hung 
greedily on every word. He made the most of this opportunity for 
sinking himself in the life of the people, he stored up mental notes. 

Sometimes toward evening a man half dead from a flogging 
would be brought into the ward. The attendant would at once try 
to remove the splinters from the back of the victim, which was a 
mass of bleeding wounds, and then cover it with a cloth soaked in 
urine — this was supposed to reduce the pain and the inflammation. 
At such moments Dostoevsky, trembling with excitement and 
horror, would hover about the attendants. Everything connected 
with this savage punishment had a tremendous fascination for him. 
He would beg the attendants to save the man's life: it was not 
seldom that convicts died after having been treated to the sticks. 
For one of the male nurses who was particularly merciful, Dostoev- 
sky made a clothes-brush in token of his gratitude. 

The story goes that he himself was subjected to a flogging and 
that it was in consequence of this that he became an epileptic. This 
must be dismissed as a legend. True, it was while he was in prison 
that he recognised for the first time that he was suffering from 
epilepsy. He believed that he contracted the falling sickness dur- 
ing his first year there, and had no memory of the seizures that pre- 
ceded his arrest, nor did he connect his ailment with anything that 
happened to him in his earlier years. This bears out Freud's state- 
ment that a neurotic's account of the course of his ailment is apt 
to be untrustworthy: "Experience shows," he writes, "that their 


memories introduce falsifications designed to break down an un- 
pleasant casual connection." A week after Dostoevsky was dis- 
charged from penal servitude he was writing to Mikhail: "My bad 
nerves brought on the falling sickness, but the attacks are rare." 
He added that he also suffered from rheumatism, but that the 
hysteria of the preceding years was gone. Most unexpectedly, he 
proved equal to the rigours of prison life. In a sense they benefited 
him: they cured him of his melancholia and hypochondria. He did 
not imagine ills any more. 

Miseries of body and mind were of the essence of his situation. 
What more natural than that he should cry out from the depths to 
the Christ of his childhood? His only reading was the New Testa- 
ment. Every time he returned to it he found another word of solace. 
It affirmed the divine character of every human being that breathed, 
irrespective of his fortunes. It spoke of mercy to the sinner, it spoke 
of comfort to the sufferer, it promised beatitude to the humbled, the 
persecuted, the hated, the outcast. It offered life more abundant to 
the living, and to the dead, resurrection. He read of the raising of 
Lazarus (was he not himself entombed?); of the casting out of the 
devils (had he not been among the possessed?); of the changing of 
water into wine at the marriage in Cana of Galilee (would joy yet be 
poured out for him too?). The phrases and parables that had been 
the common-places of his early days, the older familiar stories of the 
miracles, must have taken on for the convict a new meaning, an 
astonishing reality. Dostoevsky put into the mouth of a character 
in his last novel the words: "It is impossible for a convict to be 
without God." He felt that the criminals among whom he lived, 
though they were abandoned by the Church and crushed by the 
State, were deeply conscious of their sinfulness and clung all the 
more firmly to God, and he eventually came to believe that he had 
himself received the God he had all but lost, from the hands of these 
rough peasants, these thieves and murderers. It may be that they 
had robbed him of that faith in man's essential goodness and ulti- 
mate perfectibility which is the basis of humanitarianism, and it 
was thus that he had been compelled to rely more heavily upon 
divine aid. There is reason to think that his conviction of sin was 
part of his make-up; his imprisonment, then, could only have 
heightened his sense of guilt, and also, by punishment, assuaged it. 


Furthermore, this very sense of guilt, which had its roots in his 
morbid character, made him long for atonement and inclined him 
the more strongly toward religiosity. Whatever peculiarities of his 
personality made him reach out for religion, his experience in 
prison strenghtened them. 

Not that even now his faith was naive and simple. His need to 
believe was terrible. He knew that while he lived he would not be 
free from doubt. All the more violently did he stamp upon his own 
thoughts. Where was his Saviour? The cross was real enough, the 
mob was real, the darkness real — but what of the resurrection? Yet 
somehow his very agony begot serenity. He knew moments of 
spiritual poise. In those moments he loved yes, even these oppres- 
sively close neighbours of his, and felt that he was loved in return. 
This was the peace that passeth understanding. It must come from 
God. Not so much God the Father as God the Son, an intimate, a 
humanized Deity, a divine Brother. If reason refuted him, perish 
reason! "In such moments," he wrote to the devout Mme. Fon- 
vizina, referring to the intervals of grace, "I have composed within 
myself a confession of faith in which everything is clear and holy 
for me. This confession is very simple. Here it is: to believe that 
there is nothing more beautiful, more profound, more sympathetic, 
more reasonable, more manly, and more perfect than Christ. And 
I tell myself with jealous love that not only is there nothing, but 
indeed there can be nothing. Furthermore, if anyone proved to me 
that Christ was outside the truth, and it really was a fact that the 
truth was outside of Christ, I would rather remain with Christ than 
with the truth." Here is ostensibly a confession of simple faith, a 
reiteration of Tertullian's "Credo quia absurdum." From the point 
of view of Christian orthodoxy, this credo has a serious flaw. It is 
not without a tinge of blasphemy in admitting that He who said: 
*T am the way, the truth, and the life" could be in conflict with 
the truth. For the believer the conflict is unthinkable. Dostoevsky's 
plight was, one suspects, that to the end of his days he was unable 
wholly to reconcile Christ and the truth or to renounce either. 

In The Brothers Karamazov the condemned man is warned that 
he may not be able to bear the cross of life in prison, that he may 
*'cry quits," and become savage or embittered. Dostoevsky did not 
write this out of his own experience: he did not cry quits. Over and 


above his brief periods of serenity, which he took as gifts from 
Heaven, and in spite of his occasional rebellion, he accepted penal 
servitude with a resignation that argues aquiescence in the justice 
of his fate. Did he perhaps obscurely feel that he was getting his 
deserts, not for the trivial offence that he had actually committed, 
but for a monstrous crime that he had willed secretly, without his 
own knowledge? Certainly there was one element in his situation 
that gave him a strange and subtle pleasure. This was the humili- 
ation to which he was subjected. He was among the lowest, one 
of those to whom even the poorest peasant referred as "an unfor- 
tunate" and offered alms. A Polish convict who was in Dostoevsky's 
ward, upon being tendered such an offering, proudly refused it: he 
was no common criminal, he exclaimed, but a political offender. 
Not so Dostoevsky. Early in his prison days, as he was returning 
to the barracks one evening under guard, he passed a simple woman 
with her little daughter. The child whispered something to her 
mother, who stopped and fumbled in her pocket for a coin. The 
child snatched it and ran after Dostoevsky to thrust it into his hand, 
saying: "Here, poor man, is a farthing, for Christ's sake!" He 
treasured this first alms a long time and afterwards regretted that he 
had not kept it. 


As the end of his term drew nearer, hfe in prison became more 
tolerable. This was not because of the removal of "Eight-Eyes," 
which happened at the beginning of Dostoevsky's third year, or 
because the prison itself shortly afterwards underwent a nominal 
change of regime. Rather it was because habit had eased the hard- 
ships of the place. Incredibly, it had become a kind of home. Then, 
too, he enjoyed certain unprecedented hberties. He established con- 
tacts with some friendly townspeople and was able to borrow books. 
He read David Cop per field and Pickwick Papers in the hospital. One 
night, after the doors were locked, he actually found himself with a 
magazine in his hands. He drank in the words as a man parched 
with thirst drinks water. He scanned it hungrily for news of the 
world from which he had been snatched. It was his first chance of 
such a glimpse. The one person who might have written to him — 


Mikhail — sent him not a word during his entire stay in prison. 
How utterly cut off he was! How hard it would be to get back! 

Exactly four years after he had entered the fortress his fetters 
were knocked off by the prison blacksmith, and he walked out of 
the gates, a free man. Free? According to the terms of his sentence, 
he was now to serve as a private in Siberia, and he knew that in 
exchanging the convict's motley for the soldier's uniform, he was 
altering his appearance rather than his condition. In the meantime 
he enjoyed a brief respite between the two kinds of servitude. The 
town of Omsk he found to be dirty, dissolute, and infested with 
soldiery. Still, it held several good friends who did all they could 
for him, even to lending him money. He stayed for a short time 
at the home of the son-in-law of a Decembrist, where he was treated 
like a member of the family. 

He was chagrined to discover that he had been assigned to a 
battalion stationed in Semipalatinsk, also on the Irtysh, but hun- 
dreds of miles farther south. What could he look forward to in that 
hole, lost in the depths of the Kirghiz wilds? To go there was to 
suffer yet another wrench, to be farther away from home, to be 
abandoned by that friendly ghost of his past which, toward the end, 
had visited him at Omsk. 

Yet as he faced this change in his life, the curious half-acknow- 
ledged serenity that had supported him in prison turned to a kind 
of exultation. He was like a convalescent after a long, dangerous 
illness, who, having come near to tasting death, relishes living all 
the more. He felt that he was on the verge of the great crisis of his 
existence. He was ripe for the event. If fate cheated him now, every- 
thing was lost. He was satisfied with his life, he wrote to Mikhail, 
his mind was at rest, his future was spread out before his eyes. The 
only thing he dreaded was that the burden of a soldier's hfe under 
some bully of a sergeant would be too much for him. 

To reassure him, friends were telling him that at Semipalatinsk 
he would be among simple-minded people. But experience had 
taught him that he had more to fear from the simple than from 
the sophisticated. Still, he consoled himself, human beings were 
human beings everywhere. He begged Mikhail for two things: books 
and money. "Books," he cried, "are my life, my food, my future." 
He must have magazines — he had had to do without them for so 


long — histories, ancient and modern, Greek and Latin classics, the 
works of economists, the writings of the Fathers of the Church, 
the Koran, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, and particularly Hegel's 
History of Philosophy: also a German dictionary. He will soon take 
up his pen again, but he must first do much reading. As for money, 
it is vital to a private as to a convict. If only Mikhail will keep him 
until he is permitted to leave Siberia and publish his work! What 
is spent on him will not be lost. These years have not been wasted. 
For one thing, he has learned to know the Russian people as few 
men do. He cannot write drivel now. 

The single high road that connected Semipalatinsk with the world 
crossed a bare plain. Occasionally, during the journey that 
Dostoevsky's little party made largely on foot, they would pass 
the nomad's black tents, or encounter leisurely caravans of camels. 
Overtaking a string of carts, he got a lift for some miles, and jog- 
ging along, seated on a coil of rope, with the broad sky over him 
and a sense of freedom in his heart, he felt lighter in spirit than he 
was ever to feel again. On March 2, 1854, he tramped into the town 
and laid his eyes for the first time on its drab, wooden one-story 
houses, its endless fences, its unlit, unpaved streets. As at Omsk, 
the soldiers' barracks were located in a fortress, or rather in the 
ruins of one. The town — it was really only an overgrown village 
with a population of five or six thousand — had once been a military 
outpost of the expanding empire, and although it was now merely 
the administrative centre of a thoroughly subdued region, it was 
not sufficiently removed from the border to have lost its military 
air altogether. 

Again he was one of a crew of wretches in uniform, again he was 
sleeping on a plank bed, only slightly softened by a thin felt mat- 
tress that he had to share with his neighbour, again he was messing 
with an unsavoury lot, this time scooping the cabbage soup with his 
wooden spoon out of a common bowl. But there was no clank of 
chains, no grating of keys in locks, one could breathe the air with- 
out choking and eat the food without gagging, and one was not 
continually followed by a guard with a gun. His companions here 
were, however, not so different from the people he had been thrown 
with in prison. Some were serfs who had been drafted into the army 
at the instance of their masters as punishment. There were, too. 


desperate characters who had sold themselves as substitutes for 
other men. The air was thick with threats and curses, the sound of 
whacks, the groans of those who had been flogged. 

Among the privates there were lads in their teens, who like 
Spartan boys had been taken from their parents in childhood to be 
raised as cannon-meat. One such boy, by the name of Katz, occupied 
the planks next to Dostoevsky's. The two became friendly, 
Dostoevsky playing the big brother. Katz, who did a bit of tailor- 
ing on the side, managed to provide himself with a samovar, a 
luxury he shared with his mate. Many years later Katz recalled 
him as a taciturn, unsmiling man whose few words were uttered in 
a soft, slow, clear voice, and who in his free moments would sit 
alone lost in thought or poring over his one treasured book, the 
New Testament. But leisure was rare, what with reviews, sentry 
duty, and constant drill — he had to learn over again practically 
everything he had been taught at the military school. He was so 
busy he hardly found time for sleep. All that was required of him 
he performed punctiliously and eagerly. One of his superiors re- 
membered long afterward how quick he had been to salute, and 
how his behaviour had always been marked by a deep humiliity. 
In July he was able to write to Mikhail that he was as good a soldier 
as the next man and that his superiors were satisfied with him. He 
had attained this at the cost of heavy exertions, *'but," he added, 'T 
do not complain, it's my cross, and I deserve it." He had yet an- 
other cross to bear in the shape of strange seizures which, in his 
opinion, "resembled epilepsy and yet were not epilepsy.'* 

The winter brought him a godsend in the person of a young man 
fresh from law school who had been assigned to the post of district 
attorney at Semipalatinsk. He arrived from Petersburg in Novem- 
ber, bearing with him a letter from Mikhail, another from Apollon 
Maikov, some linen, books, and fifty roubles. The young Baron 
Wrangel — he was only twenty-one — was an exception to the usual 
run of civil servants who found in Siberia their happy hunting- 
grounds: alert, sensitive, sincere, bursting with good intentions and 
high ideals, he was the sort of person with whom Dostoevsky could 
feel at ease. And since he came from Petersburg and from Mikhail, 
he was a piece of home. Wrangel, of course, knew the story of this 
morose man with the sallow, freckled face, the fair closely cropped 


hair, the husky voice, who, though a person of his own class, stood 
before him in the uniform of a private. Their friendship was chris- 
tened with tears. At their first meeting the young man wept with 
homesickness on Dostoevsky's rough grey shoulder, and in his turn, 
Dostoevsky cried over the letters from home. 

An intimacy soon sprang up between the young district attorney 
and the political exile. In writing home, the youth described his 
friend as a man of deep religiosity and an iron will. He loved him 
as a brother and respected him as though he were his father. 
Dostoevsky was grateful for this affection, though he could not 
fully reciprocate it. He would spend with Wrangel as many hours 
as he could, drinking numberless glasses of tea, smoking cheap, 
stinking Majorca tobacco in a long pipe, reading and studying. 
Indeed they were planning to undertake together the translation 
of Hegel's Philosophy (sic) and of Psyche: zur Entwickelungsgesch- 
ichte der Seele, by C. G. Carus. 

Their talk sometimes turned on politics. There was nothing in 
the opinions of the political exile to grate upon the respectable young 
district attorney. Dostoevsky spoke as a patriot and a loyal subject 
of the tsar. Indeed, he had expressed himself in that vein while 
he was in prison, much to the disgust of the Polish politicals who 
were confined with him. He had harped on the role of the aristoc- 
racy, insisted on Russia's right to Poland and the other annexed 
provinces, looked forward to the entry of Russian troops into 
Constantinople, and enlarged on the supremacy of the Russians, 
in comparison with whom the other nations were mere caricatures. 
He may have exaggerated his ideas partly to annoy the Poles, whom 
he heartily disliked. But plainly these were overstatements of what 
he actually felt. In fact, shortly after he was out of prison, stirred 
by the events of the Crimean War, which was being fought thou- 
sands of miles away, he composed a poem in a violently jingoistic 
strain, assuring Russia's enemies that his country would be saved 
by the Cross and the Throne, and prophesying that the two-headed 
eagle would press on toward "Tsargrad" (the old Russian name 
for Constantinople). 


What had landed him in prison now seemed to him a fatal mis- 
understanding. In a letter to his old friend, Maikov, whom he had 
vainly tried to interest in the setting up of the secret press, he re- 
ferred to the affair as "hardly more than an accident," and went 
on to picture himself as one who had always been "a true Russian," 
devoted to "the Russian idea," and believing in the holy mission 
of his fatherland. Before his arrest he had associated with both 
conservatives and radicals. He had been nourished on conservative 
sentiments, he had had more than a nibble of radicalism. In the 
isolation imposed on him by his exile, his leanings toward the estab- 
lished order asserted themselves. It was his belief that he owed this 
"change of convictions" to his prolonged contact with the masses: 
they had taught him to honour the tsar as they had taught him to 
worship Christ. It is permissible to doubt that he understood himself 
thoroughly in this matter. His nature was too rich in contradictions 
to allow of any simple explanation of his attitudes. One cannot 
help wondering, however, whether it was dread of the power for 
evil that he had seen in the criminals around him and that he sus- 
pected in his own heart, that dictated his professed adherence to 
law and order. It is at least plausible that his Siberian experiences 
impressed him with the need for restraint, for discipline, in the form 
of Church and State, and that fear of the very strength of his anar- 
chical self-will gave his opinions the colour of conservatism. 

Orthodox though Dostoevsky's views were, it argued some 
courage on Wrangel's part to allow himself to be seen in the com- 
pany of this common soldier, so recently a convict. But Wrangel 
went further than that. He introduced his new friend everywhere. 
He even took him to the military governor's, and after that all doors 
were open to him. Dostoevsky now counted among his acquain- 
tances the elite of the town and was "loved and respected," as he 
wrote to his brother, by his superiors. Some of the ladies, officials' 
wives, took an interest in this private with a past. One of them 
showed him the verses she wrote. He became a frequent visitor at 
the house of his battalion commander, a little pot-bellied man who 
was always drunk and who was ready to give away his last shirt 
to the first comer. Though Dostoevsky was often seen at the home 
of a Cossack officer, which was the scene of much gambling, he 
seems not to have yielded to that temptation. Nor did he drink. 


Wrangel only once saw him slightly under the influence of liquor. 
He had the peculiar slant on a company that was almost always 
drunk of a man who remains sober. 

For some time he had been in private lodgings, having been per- 
mitted to live outside the barracks. He roomed with a soldier*s 
widow, the mother of two daughters whose youthful and not in- 
considerable charms were her chief source of income. Her lodger, 
unlike the natives, could not take this kind of thing as a matter 
of course. Occasionally he would be roused to remonstrate with 
the woman. She would silence him by arguing that sooner or later 
the girls would give themselves to a common sergeant for two 
cookies or a pound of nuts, whereas if she introduced them to fine 
gentlemen, there was both profit and honour. In spite of the public 
character of his landlady's household, he was enjoying privacy 
for the first time in five or six years. When he walked from the 
parade ground, through the waste of sand and briers where were 
scattered the wooden houses of the Russian section of the town 
(so-called to distinguish it from the Cossack and Tartar neighbour- 
hoods) and, having opened the wicket gate, stepped behind the tall 
fence, past the watchdog on his chain, entered the old log cabin, 
and at last found himself in the low grimy room, crawling with 
cockroaches, he had the long-denied comfort of being at home. 
There he would make his meal of the cabbage soup, kasha, and 
black bread that he had brought from the barracks. 

His soldierly duties were no longer so onerous. There was some 
leisure. He employed it to make a few copecks by tutoring. While 
he taught, he kept on his cloak, so that his pupil should not see 
how threadbare his trousers were. As usual he was penniless and 
in debt. There was, of course, Mikhail to appeal to. Mikhail had 
given up literature and turned to business. During Dostoevsky's 
third year in prison, his youngest brother having come of age, the 
family estate was sold and the proceeds divided among the heirs. 
Mikhail used what he received to open a cigarette factory. This 
change did not materially improve his fortunes, so that Dostoev- 
sky had less to hope tor from his brother than he realized. It will 
be remembered that he had forfeited his own share by accepting 
a lump sum in advance. 
However much he had gained in knowledge of human nature 


during his prison years, there were certain things that he had lost, 
and he was now trying to recover them. He was suddenly over- 
come by a desire to improve his mind and fill the gaps in his edu- 
cation. This ambition was not to last long and indeed, in a formal 
way, he never achieved more than a shallow culture. He enjoyed 
the exemption from dependence on mere learning, which is the 
privilege of genius. Naturally, the most important thing that his 
leisure gave him was a resurrection of the old figments, a surrender 
to the new images that haunted him. The writer was reviving. 


THE SENSE of release that the hardships of his life as a soldier 
could not smother was heightened by a friendship that was 
flourishing before Wrangel arrived on the scene. It was, in 
fact, more than a friendship. For the first time a woman entered 
Dostoevsky's life. A few months after his coming to Semipalatinsk 
he fell in with a petty official who, like most of the Siberian bureau- 
cracy, hailed from Russia. This Isayev, a sweet-tempered, high- 
minded, improvident fellow, in spite of some talents and education 
and the responsibility of a wife and son, drank heavily and could 
not keep himself in hand. He was then, as often, out of a job, and 
the little family was in severe straits. The wife, a woman of about 
thirty, would have stood out even in a less crude society. Marya 
Dmitrievna was a fragile blonde, with small, irregular, pleasant 
features and an eager, cultivated mind. A spirited creature, with a 
deep sense of injury, she felt keenly the indignities of her situation, 
and her poor health — like Dostoevsky's mother she carried within 
her the seeds of consumption — fed an irritability that could melt 
into a startling tenderness. 

Dostoevsky was constantly at the Isayevs'. He tutored the little 
Pasha and spent long evenings with his parents, particularly the 
lonely mother. For the first time in five years he had found a woman 
to whom he could talk. She was kind to this exile in the uniform 
of a common soldier. Life had trampled on her, too. Their very 
quarrels — the friendship of such a pair could not always be serene — 
endeared her to him the more. There were nights when he left the 
house in a state bordering upon ecstasy. 

It was probably before he became absorbed in her that he had 
a brief intimacy with a girl to whom Marya Dmitrievna would 
not have bowed. All that is known of the affair is that this Liza 
was a striking beauty, that she sold bread in the Semipalatinsk 
market place, thus supporting her orphaned brothers and sisters, 



and that Dostoevsky wrote her more than a score of letters which 
she, though only half-literate, answered. Unfortunately, the cor- 
respondence has been lost, but it is reported that in his letters he 
urged her to continue taking care of the family, even if it meant 
sacrificing her own happiness. As a matter of fact, she never 
married, though she lived to a ripe age. It is doubtful whether any 
trace of Liza is discoverable in Dostoevsky's writings, and she left 
no mark on his life. It was quite otherwise with Marya Dmitrievna. 
As the months went by, she meant increasingly more to him. But 
she was the wife of his friend. His feeling for her must remain as 
secret as it was hopeless. 

Suddenly this ambiguous relationship was threatened. In May, 
1855, Isayev was appointed to a post at Kuznetzk, nearly five hun- 
dred miles away, and there was nothing for the family to do but 
to pull up stakes and go there. The money necessary for the removal 
was supplied by the obliging Wrangel, although nominally it came 
from Dostoevsky. When the time for departure arrived, he accom- 
panied the Isayevs several miles beyond the city limits. He said 
his good-bye to Marya Dmitrievna under a pine tree that added 
its pungency to the heartbreaking sweetness of the spring night, 
while Isayev lay in the carriage, overcome by the Veuve Qiquot 
with which Wrangel had plied him. It was daybreak when Dosto- 
evsky was in his room again, relieved to be rid of the kindly but 
intrusive baron. He paced the floor in misery for a long time. 

Soon a letter came from Kuznetzk. He answered promptly and 
eagerly. What distance prevented them from saying to each other 
they confided to paper. Unfortunately, all that has been preserved 
of the correspondence is his first letter. He writes that their de- 
parture has left him orphaned. He can only compare this loneliness 
to what he felt when he was arrested and shut away in the fortress. 
Both Marya Dmitrievna and her good husband had loved him, had 
treated him as one of their own. Were it not for them, his spirit 
would have perished, but they made a human being of him again. 
Now that they are gone, he doesn't know what to do with himself. 
Even Wrangel tries him — he can't help contrasting the man with 
her. Does she remember Wrangel 's summer cottage? The garden 
is the same as ever, even to the bench they sat on. He is worried 
about the Isayevs' circumstances. They expect an inheritance from 


her grandmother, but this means that they'll be burdened with the 
old lady and that Marya Dmitrievna will have to wash her lap 
dogs. They must not take her in, unless she pays a thousand roubles 
a month for her keep and offers a written guarantee that she will 
die in three months. Dostoevsky concludes by embracing Isayev as 
a friend and brother, and wondering if he will ever see Marya 
Dmitrievna again. 

The letters that kept coming from Kuznetzk were upsetting 
Marya Dmitrievna was ill. She was lonely. Isayev was in a bad way, 
as usual. Dostoevsky lived in a fever of anxiety. He was temporarily 
sharing the baron's summer quarters, a spacious, dilapidated house, 
with mushrooms growing through the rotten flooring. Externally, 
he led a bucolic existence, feeding the pigs and chickens or, clad 
in a faded pink cotton vest, working in the vegetable patch. But he 
was miserable. His superstitious streak got the better of him, and he 
visited fortune-tellers. Wrangel tried to distract him, but in vain. 
He carried him off to visit neighbouring mining towns. He took 
him along when he went shooting. Dostoevsky was bored by the 
sport and, as even under happier circumstances, utterly indifferent 
to natural scenery, however full of dramatic surprises. 

Absence had sharpened his feeling for Marya Dmitrievna. 
Wrangel laid himself out to arrange a meeting of the two in a town 
midway between Semipalatinsk and Kuznetzk, but was not success- 
ful. Meanwhile events were developing rapidly. Early in August 
Isayev died, leaving his widow and seven-year-old son penniless in 
a strange town. There was not even enough for the funeral expenses, 
and the widow was practically driven to accepting alms. The news 
made Dostoevsky frantic. He borrowed from Wrangel to help her. 
Somehow she scraped through the autumn and the following winter 
at Kuznetzk. The letters she was now receiving from Dostoevsky 
were no longer those of an affectionate friend, but of a passionate 

They exchanged vows. But how could they think of marriage? 
Aside from the fact that he was five hundred miles away from his 
beloved, he was still a private, relying largely for his living expenses 
on rare and meagre remittances from Mikhail. Furthermore, the 
devoted Wrangel had left Siberia in I>ecember, and the friends who 
remained were not so dependable. The worst of it was that he 


couldn't be sure of her. At Kuznetzk she was surrounded by meddle- 
some matrons bent on arranging a match for her there. She might 
be forced to take shelter under her father's roof in Astrakhan. Not 
that this would write finis to Dostoevsky's hopes. He was ready 
to wait for her, if it meant five years. 

Life was hell. He suspected that she was not writing the whole 
truth. Knowing his jealous nature, she was, he told himself, afraid 
to be frank with him. His suspicions seemed justified. In March 
he was overwhelmed by a letter in which she said that she had 
decided to speak plainly and put this question to him: suppose a 
man, well along in years, but of sterling character and with an 
assured future, say, a civil servant, were to offer her his hand, 
should she say yes? He must consider the matter carefully like the 
true friend that he was and answer her without delay. She was alone 
with her child at the end of nowhere, her chief support being her 
old father. What would become of her if he died? She ended by 
telling her correspondent that she loved him and that this was all 
a mere notion. 

The mere notion threw Dostoevsky into a faint. He recalled a 
rumour that she had promised to marry someone in Kuznetzk, which 
he had carelessly dismissed. He sobbed over her letter all night. 
Before dawn he wrote to her. He threatened, pleaded, poured out 
words of tenderness. He would die if he lost her. But she must tell 
him the whole truth, and spare him nothing. 

He spent two weeks in torment. Strange that he was still alive. 
He did not condemn her for a moment: she could not be expected 
to marry a private. He could not, he could not give her up. He 
would go mad, he would throw himself into the Irtysh. But suppose 
he were standing in the way of her happiness? No, she loved him, 
he was sure of it. She could not be happy with anyone else. She 
was capable of selling herself to give her child bread. His pitiful 
darling was so kind, so easily deceived. Curious, that he should 
be in the boots of the wretched hero of his P(Jor Folk — it was as if 
he had prophesied his own fate. Come — he had a claim upon her 
that could not be dismissed. At his time of life, love was no light 
fancy. This aff'air had been going on for two years now, and the ten 
months of separation had only exasperated his passion. 

He was ready to walk to Kuznetzk (just to see her once more. 


and then let come what might. The ghost of hope restrained him 
from doing something desperate. He was certain that should his 
affairs take a favourable turn, he would be preferred to any and all 
of her suitors. At last a letter from her lifted the darkness from 
his heart. It had all been a ruse. Some time previously he had 
written her that during Carnival week he had attended a dance, 
and she got the idea that he was beginning to forget her. She be- 
came panicky. Resenting what she took to be his defection, she had 
written in a chilly tone. Finally, to discover where she stood, she 
made up the story of a suitor. Reassured by his agonized reply, 
she put her cards on the table. As for the rumour of her marriage, 
it was such a piece of gossip as commonly flourished in Siberian 


In spite of this happy conclusion to the episode, the situation 
remained painful in the extreme. Marya Dmitrievna was constantly 
ailing. He too was ill. His attacks, which generally occurred at night, 
were not frequent, but alarming. He told Wrangel that each seiz- 
ure was preceded by an "inexpressible voluptuous feeling." For 
two or three days after the attack he felt broken in body and spirit. 
The uncertainty of their situation was maddening. She could not 
stay on at Kuznetzk much longer. Should she go to her father in 
Astrakhan? Should she tell the old man she was about to be 
married? To whom was she to be married? On what? Everything 
depended on whether or not Dostoevsky could better his position. 
If only he were transferred from the military to the civil service! 
Even in the lowest rank, with the pittance of a salary. Or else, if he 
were allowed to take a position with a private employer. The direc- 
tor of the Altai mills was ready to give him a berth. He could get 
ahead. Siberia was the place for making money. If he had a little 
free cash, he could double it in a year by clever speculating. Any 
job would tide him over until he came into his own again by getting 
permission to publish. 

For six years he has been fighting against hell. Has he come 
through all this only to fail in supporting a wife? He will soon be 
thirty-five. He will die if he loses her. He's not cheating her by 
asking her to wait. By September he will have a novel ready that 


will outdo Poor Folk. M the worst comes to the worst, he can publish 
anonymously and pocket the cash all the same. With time they may 
even put something aside. He is counting on his pen. He is a man 
who has something to say. 

What heartened him was the knowledge that several people in 
Petersburg were exerting themselves on his behalf. Wrangel, before 
he left Semipalatinsk, had already begun prodding his influential 
relatives to do something for his friend. Once in the capital again, 
the baron was beseiged with desperate appeals to act promptly. 
And Dostoevsky had yet another cause for hope. Mention has been 
made of his ode on the Crimean War, written in 1854. Now he 
penned another ultra-patriotic poem on the occasion of the birth- 
day of the Dowager Empress, in which he lamented the recent pass- 
ing of her august spouse. He had handed it to the commander of the 
Siberian Corps who happened to visit Semipalatinsk with a request 
*'to lay it at the Empress's feet." Whether or not it had reached 
her, he was promoted to the rank of corporal. 

Encouraged by this advancement, which occurred in November, 
1855, and urged on by his need, he took a further step. On March 
24, 1856, he wrote to General Eduard Todleben, the Sebastopol 
hero, whom he had known in happier days and whose younger 
brother had been his schoolmate. He begged the general to inter- 
cede with the Emperor for a poor and ailing exile who had repented 
the error of his ways. Admitting that he had been justly punished 
for having intended to act against the government, he stressed the 
fact that he was now suffering for opinions that he had repudiated. 
No longer did he believe in "theories and Utopias," as he had done 
in his youth. He wished to serve his country, but not as a soldier. 
Civil service would be less uncongenial, but his most earnest wish 
was to be permitted to publish his writings. He had always consider- 
ed the writer's calling to be the noblest and most useful. A measure 
of literary ability was his sole possession. Perhaps he, a corporal, 
was rendering himself guilty of insubordination by daring to write 
to an adjutant general, but he committed himself to the mercy of his 

The communication was to be handed to the general by the most 
devoted, the angelic, the priceless, the invaluable, the irreplaceable 
Wrangel. He could make it plain to Todleben, who would in turn 


be able to impress it on the Emperor, that Dostoevsky would hence- 
forth be a loyal subject. Perhaps Maikov, too, could put in a word 
for him with the general. If only the young Todleben could be reach- 
ed! He would throw himself on his brother's neck and implore 
him to save his old schoolfellow. 

Simultaneously Dostoevsky gave Wrangel another commission. 
He was to find out what had become of Mikhail. Had he forgotten 
that he had a brother? Had he given himself over to money- 
grubbing altogether? Why was he letting eight months go by 
without a word? An urgent request for money sent the previous 
December had gone unheeded. Of course, Mikhail might be in 
straits, but then he must have known that as for him, he was in 
the last extremity. Now he must beg him for money again: he 
encloses the letter. There may be a chance to visit Kuznetzk, which 
means no small outlay. Again, he ought to insist on Marya 
Dmitrievna's accepting some money from him. Only once in a 
lifetime does a man need money so desperately. He cannot ask 
anything of Wrangel: he is too deep in debt there already. Nor 
does he want alms from Mikhail. He would rather the two of 
them should go under than accept anything like that. He wants 
a brother, not money. Perhaps, like relatives in novels, Mikhail is 
jealous of Marya Dmitrievna. Does he forget that his brother is 
a man of thirty-five, with enough good sense for ten people? Wrangel 
must persuade Mikhail to come to his rescue at this critical moment 
of his life. For seven years life has been gall. He is not made of 
stone. There is a limit to his endurance. 

Todleben showed himself to be the man Dostoevsky thought 
him. At any rate, according to Wrangel, the wheels had begun to 
turn. The exile is filled with hope and overwhelmed with grati- 
tude, particularly to the young monarch whom, he says, he adores. 
He sends Wrangel an ode of his on the coronation and the conclu- 
sion of the Crimean War, begging him to see that it reaches the 
emperor. He entrusts another copy to the governor-general, who is 
going to Petersburg for the ceremonies, and who may get him per- 
mission to publish it. He had previously started an essay on Russia, 
but he had given it up when he noticed that it was turning out to be 
a political pamphlet: certainly the Government would not allow him 
to re-enter the literary world with such a piece, despite its patriotic 


tone. He had then started a paper on a safer subject: art and Christi- 
anity, which was the precipitate of ten years* meditation, and which 
he had thought out to the last syllable while he was still in prison. 
He hopes to be allowed to dedicate it to Her Highness, Maria Niko- 
layevna, the President of the Academy of Arts, and to publish it 
anonymously. As a matter of fact, all these efforts to get permission 
to publish were really for the sake of the novel that he had under 
way, and which was his refuge from his troubles. Neither the politi- 
cal nor the esthetic essay is heard of again. 

And now came reassuring news of Mikhail. In a long letter he 
explained and justified his conduct. He had preserved silence dur- 
ing the four years of Fyodor's incarceration because he had failed 
to get permission to write, and he was afraid that secret correspond- 
ence would work his brother harm, and though he did not admit 
as much, since he had a large family and small courage, he yielded 
all too readily to the dictates of prudence. He insisted that he was 
as devoted as ever. But even when he was free to write, he was 
paralysed by the knowledge that his messages were read by strangers 
before they reached his brother, and so his letters were few and far 
between. He had not so much as said that the previous summer the 
family had been increased by twins, so that he was now the father 
of five children. As for his business, though it was expanding, it 
was just then going through a crisis, and so he could send no more 
than a hundred and fifty a year. He was perfectly sympathetic with 
regard to his brother's love affair, but just because Fyodor was no 
mere boy and because marriage involved no end of petty cares, he 
begged him to wait until his situation was more settled. He must 
have patience: many influential people had his cause at heart, Mik- 
hail ends his letter with the assurance that he has not turned into a 
bloated business man — if Emilia has taken on weight, he remains 
lean and pale, the last of the romantics. 


With the approach of Dostoevsky's third summer at Semipala- 
tinsk the oudook became distinctly brighter. There was in the offing 
a transfer to civil service or perhaps an army commission. Suddenly 
he was crushed by the knowledge that even if there should be a 


change for the better, it would come too late. In June he realized 
his dream of seeing Mary a Dmitrievna. He had a ten days' leave 
to go to Barnaul, a neighbouring town, and he risked going on to 
Kuznetzk. It meant a large expense and the danger of being court- 
martialled, but no matter. "I saw her," he wrote to Wrangel. "What 
a noble, what an angelic soul! She cried, she kissed my hands, but 
she loves another." 

The other was Nikolay Vergunov, a youth of twenty-four, a native 
of Tomsk, a teacher in a country school with a prospect of one hun- 
dred roubles a year, a person with little culture and less experience 
of life. It was plain to Dostoevsky that a union between the two was 
madness, He argued with her. He pointed out that she would be 
buried in this hole the rest of her life, with a Htter of children, and 
nothing to look forward to. She was five years the boy's senior: 
how long would it take before she would have to suffer her young 
husband's reproaches for having ruined his youth? Was it not likely 
that he would wish her death? And in any case, was this half-edu- 
cated little Siberian schoolmaster a fit companion for a woman who 
had lived, who had suffered, a woman of her refinement and culti- 

She was not impressed by his arguments, she could not expect 
him to like the prospect. He knew this, and it made it harder for 
him to speak. But there she sat, agonized by the picture he painted. 
He took pity on her. He began to defend her young lover. This 
touched her to the quick. She began in her turn to pity Dostoevsky. 
She became tender. Her heart turned toward him now. If he had 
not been devoted to her, body and soul, already, he would have 
fallen in love with her then; she was so animated, so full of common- 
sense and delicious folly, so kind, so quixotic. She was the very 
woman to throw herself away. 

She introduced Dostoevsky to his rival. The two became friendly. 
He reasoned with the young man and reduced him to tears. The 
youth seemed able to do little more than weep. After two days of 
mingled torture and bliss, Dostoevsky left Kuznetzk with a heart in 
which hope still fought despair. Towards the end the widow seemed 
to be swinging round to him. In parting she asked him to write to 
the young man frankly and fully. 

He addressed a long letter to both, repeating practically the same 


arguments he had advanced against the marriage by word of mouth. 
He made every effort to take a point of view which was completely 
disinterested. What was his dismay to discover that his attitude was 
thoroughtly misunderstood! Her reply was an indignant defence 
of the young man, although nothing had been further from Dosto- 
evsky's mind than to attack him. As for Vergunov, he took offence, 
tried to rouse Marya Dmitrievna against his rival, and generally 
behaved like a fool and a cad. But characteristically, without wait- 
ing for Dostoevsky's response to her first outburst, she veered 
abruptly round and made overtures of peace. Her later letters, 
however, made him feel that to be out of sight was to be out of mind. 
She fretted, she grieved but the other man meant more to her. How 
would it all end? He did not know, but he was bent on working for 
her happiness, whatever it might entail for him. He was like a man 
who had lost his mind. This wound would never heal. If he could 
only tear out his heart and bury it! 

What must have kept him from collapse was the fact that his 
soldierly duties were particularly exacting just then. Also he was 
busy trying to be of practical assistance to the lady. Petitions had 
to be written and various people approached, so that her son could 
get a scholarship in one of the military schools. And then there 
was all the red tape connected with securing her pension. He 
trembled at the thought that she might forfeit it by remarrying 
before it came. Finally, he must exert himself on behalf of his rival: 
in addition to other commissions, he urged Wrangel to sing Ver- 
gunov's praises to the governor general and to put in a word for 
the young man with another high official in the hope of getting him 
a promotion that would double his salary. If she did marry him, 
she must at least be spared certain privations. 

As for himself, he was up to his ears in debt. Should his officer's 
commission eventuate as expected, there would be unavoidable 
additional expenses. Again he must ask help of Mikhail and of 
Wrangel. If he gained permission to publish, he would certainly 
repay them by the New Year. Wrangel must bear with him, for 
Christ's sake. He was at the end of his tether. He was in a state 
where a man takes to drink, or drowns himself. If only he could 
see her, were it but for an hour. 

The manifesto published on the occasion of the coronation of 


Alexander II in August, 1856, vaguely promised relief to political 
prisoners of the class to which Dostoevsky belonged. Whether be- 
cause of this amnesty, or owing to the intercession of influential 
persons, or thanks to his patriotic poems, on October 1, Dostoevsky 
was promoted to the rank of praporshchik (ensign), the lowest com- 
missioned officer in the army. "The Lord grant our angel monarch a 
long and prosperous reign!" he cried. This promotion meant the 
restoration of his status as a noble. It was also a step on the road 
to freedom. To retire from the service altogether and be permitted 
to write for publication — that was his heart's desire. What sort of 
a military man was he anyway, with his strange attacks? Every time 
they left him with weakened faculties and would, he feared, event- 
ually lead to insanity. 

One good thing about his new position was that leaves were 
more easily obtained, and so he might see her. 'T am an unhappy 
madman," he wrote Wrangel. "Such love is a disease. I feel it." 
Every week he received long letters from her, bearing all the signs 
of deep, sincere affection. But did she love him? He did not know. 
Sometimes she called him "brother." Her marriage to his rival was 
temporarily in abeyance, apparently for financial reasons. He felt 
that there was no hope, but he remembered his visit and persuaded 
himself that then he had, after all, won her back. Hope or no hope, 
he must see her. She had caused his resurrection; she was the light 
of his life. "She is one of God's angels," he told Mikhail, "whom 
I met on my way, and suffering bound us together." 

His salary as an officer being a mere pittance, and his equipment 
expensive, he was now deeper in debt than ever. He assured his 
brother that his straits were not due to his sharing what he had 
with Marya Dmitrievna: she was not the sort to accept anything. 
As far as he was concerned, he stinted himself "like a Jew." He 
managed, however, to get to Kuznetzk toward the end of November. 

The visit was decisive. On December 21 he wrote to Wrangel that, 
God willing, he would be married before Carnival. She loved him. 
She had loved him all along. And he hadn't a copeck. Mikhail was 
not to be counted upon. His one hope was his wealthy uncle in 
Moscow. He would write him and, meanwhile, borrow from a newly 
acquired friend. If he thus ventured further into debt, it was because 
he had a thousand roubles worth of manuscript. It was therefore 


of supreme importance to him to obtain permission to publish. If 
it should be withheld another year, he was lost. He was, of course, 
willing to write anonymously or under a pseudonym. In all his life 
he had never faced such a crisis. Wrangel must leave no stone un- 
turned to get him that long-coveted privilege. He should also do 
what he could for Vergunov. The boy was taking an examination 
for promotion, and wires must be pulled so that he would be sure 
to get it. He deserved this and more. Vergunov was dearer to him 
than a brother. He was ready to beg for him on his knees. 

The following day he wrote to advise Mikhail of the important 
event. He told his brother that the decision was final, and he was 
not to be argued out of it. His future wife was a woman in a 
thousand. If, as he hopes, "the adored being who rules us'* will 
permit him to publish his writings, their livelihood is assured. 
Literature will yet hear of him. His mind is clearer and steadier, 
and he has laid up a rich fund of material. As for the worries and 
troubles that married life carries with it — well, she is dearer to 
him than the whole world, and he cannot abandon her, helpless 
and suffering as she is. If Uncle refuses to advance the necessary 
money, he will have to depend solely upon himself, God, and 
"His angel, our monarch.'* He knows that Mikhail's financial 
assistance is out of the question at this time, but he has one favour 
to ask of him. Will he not please send an Easter bonnet, two caps 
with blue ribbons, some silk material in a fashionable colour for a 
dress — his bride is tall and has a fine figure — a mantilla, perhaps of 
velvet, a lace kerchief, and half a dozen fine linen handkerchiefs. 
There was nothing decent to be had at Semipalatinsk and what 
could be bought, was frightfully expensive. 

Until then Mikhail had been the only one he had taken into 
his confidence, and he had warned him to keep the love affair a 
secret, since he wanted no counsels of prudence from the family. 
The time had come when he must tell them. On the day that he 
apprised Mikhail of the step he had decided to take, he wrote to 
his sister Varya, who had a good deal of influence with the Kuma- 
nins. He painted the situation in a rosy light. The lady was six years 
his junior and came of an excellent family. Her father, who held 
an important post at Astrakhan, was a descendant of a French 
nobleman who had fled to Russia during the revolution. She was a 


charming and highly educated woman, devout, sensible of her duties, 
and he loved her more than his life. They were a perfect match. 
They understood and respected each other and had the same likes 
and disHkes. Of course, his pay as an officer would not keep them, 
but she had had to manage on little before this, and she was a good 
housekeeper. Besides, sooner or later, he would be permitted to 
publish his work and so make a living by his pen. In the meantime 
he would borrow the rrroney he needed to get married on, in the 
hope that Uncle would pay off this debt. He relied on Varya to break 
the news to Aunt, to assure her that he considered her his "guard- 
ian angel," and to get her blessing for him. Varya should also hand 
his letter to Uncle at the right moment and, with Aunt, bring him to 
see this marriage in the right light. As a political offender, he was 
under surveillance and would probably, and deservedly, long remain 
suspect. Now, wasn't the Government more likely to trust a settled 
married man than an unattached bachelor without responsibilities? 
It was essential for him to be in the good books of the authorities, 
and marriage would be a step in that direction. Perhaps Uncle 
would see the force of that argument. In any event, Dostoevsky 
concluded, he had made up his mind and nothing would swerve 

If he considered his poor health an obstacle, he made no mention 
of the fact. He did consult local physicians, only to be assured that 
his attacks were mere "nerves" and that his marriage might improve 
matters. To the last, however, he was harassed by uncertainties: 
would he be able to borrow the money? Could he get to Kuznetzk, 
be married, and return before the end of his leave which was only 
for fifteen days? Any one of a dozen things might interfere with 
the wedding. The enterprise involved a trip of a thousand miles by 

Finally, more than the six hundred roubles which he had men- 
tioned in every letter as his minimum requirement was in his pocket, 
and he could proceed to rent a flat and buy the household neces- 
saries — all he owned was a mattress and a pillow. Alas, his officer's 
equipment was still to be gotten. Before long he realized that he 
would be left with nothing on his return to Semipalatinsk. 

But he could wait no longer. He decided to take a chance — he 
had a feeling that luck was with him in all the critical moments of 


his life. He went to Kuznetzk and everything passed off smoothly. 
The wedding took place on February 6, 1857. It was a modest yet 
respectable affair. Nikolay Borisovich Vergunov stood sponsor for 
the groom. The local chief of police and his wife gave the bride 
away, and the officiating cleric was present at the feast. 

Time was pressing, and the couple had to set out for Semipala- 
tinsk as soon as the ceremony was over. On their way they stopped 
off at Barnaul. Here Dostoevsky suffered a violent seizure. The 
physician who was called in diagnosed the case as epilepsy, and 
when Dostoevsky insisted on knowing the worst, told him that in 
the course of such an attack he was bound to die of asphyxiation 
resulting from a throat spasm. The period of the new moon, he 
added, was particularly dangerous for him. 

The news was crushing. It struck him that, had he known the 
truth, he would have given up the thought of marriage. Whether 
or not he was overestimating his own prudence, regrets were vain. 
What if he were to have a seizure while on duty. Strapped in the 
tight uniform, he was sure to choke to death. Marya Dmitrievna 
either had not suspected the nature of her husband's attacks or had 
never been present at one. In any event, she was horribly fright- 
ened and also took sick. The newlyweds arrived in Semipalatinsk 
in a lamentable state. Of course, things were at sixes and sevens 
in the flat he had rented from a postman. And to make matters 
worse, the brigade commander arrived, and there was a parade, 
with all the fuss and fatigue it entailed. Their married life was 
beginning under ominous circumstances. 


THERE was something in Dostoevsky that fought depression. 
He had a blind faith in the future. It was as though his 
sufferings had yielded a residue of courage and optimism. 
The Barnaul doctor, he told himself, may have made a mistake. 
The bureau drawer held 250 roubles: Uncle Kumanin had behaved 
handsomely, and this sum was left after Dostoevsky had paid a 
small part of his debts. As for his Masha, the past had left its traces 
on her, and she was incredibly moody and difficult, but, he wrote 
Mikhail a fortnight after their return to Semipalatinsk, "she never 
ceases to be kind and liigh-minded, I love her dearly, she loves me, 
and for the time being all goes well." After the stormy months that 
had preceded their union, the two tasted something like peace. Her 
anxiety melted away in the atmosphere of affection with which he 
surrounded her and her child — his judgment of the boy's character 
was flattering rather than perspicacious. He was happy in loving, 
she in being loved. They lived quietly, saw few people, and held 
on to the money, which nevertheless had a way of slipping through 
their fingers. If only he could earn his bread! 

In May he was notified that his rank in the gentry had been re- 
stored to him, and he took this to be another token of his monarch's 
graciousness. Could the Government withhold from him much 
longer permission to return to Russia and to publish his work? He 
saw himself in Moscow before the year was over. It was essential 
for him to go there to consult physicians. Since April his attacks 
had been more frequent, and he had to take a leave of absence to 
recuperate. The seizures occurred while he was on sentry duty, as 
he had feared, and in his sleep. The after-effects were hard to bear. 
His condition did not remain a secret from his relatives by marriage, 
and when one of his sisters-in-law sent him a nostrum against the 
falling sickness he assured her that he would use it, for he was not 



opposed to "sympathetic and magnetic cures" and believed in the 
efficacy of folk remedies. 

His whole existence centred on the expectation of leaving Semi- 
palatinsk. The Siberian air stifled him. There was something de- 
moralizing in the life of this frontier settlement, overrun with petty 
officials as with locusts. The absence of civiHzed amusements — there 
was but one piano in the whole town — and of reading matter was 
stultifying. The men drank, gambled, and gorged themselves. The 
women, of whom there were fev/, had nothing with which to relieve 
their boredom except gossip. The whole region was a godforsaken 
wilderness into which the dregs of Russia had been drained. 

There was one redeeming feature in the situation: his anxieties 
did not prevent him from writing. He had nothing finished to show 
for the work that he had done before his marriage, although as the 
year 1856 was drawing to a close he had been telling everybody that 
he had a thousand roubles' worth of manuscript ready for the press. 
Most of it existed in his imagination. During the long oppressive 
nights in prison he had spun out of his head what he conceived 
to be his "great and final tale." When he was released he did not 
commence it, though, by his own account, "everything was in readi- 
ness," because, for one thing, his affair with Marya Dmitrievna 
deprived him of the necessary peace of mind, and rather than risk 
spoiling the material, he decided not to touch it. Instead, he began 
a comedy, which pleased him so much that in order to follow his 
hero's adventures in greater detail he turned from the dramatic to 
the narrative form. 

As the work proceeded, not only was the form altered, but the 
tone as well. In the early winter of 1857 he had on his hands a bulky, 
serious novel, half of it actually written, though in a rough state. 
It was going splendidly. And he had to give it up. The thought of 
finishing it in a hurry made him sick. He could not possibly com- 
plete it to his satisfaction in time to sell it before the year was out, 
and by that time he would need no less a sum than 650 roubles, to 
pay off the debt contracted just before his marriage. His creditor, 
who had promised to wait indefinitely, began to dun him three 
months after the wedding and made his life miserable. Besides, he 
would soon be without a copeck for his daily needs. He would put 
his hand to something less ambitious, that could be just dashed 


off and would bring immediate returns. Katkov, the editor of the 
Moscow review Russky vestnik (The Russian Messenger), had al- 
ready approached him for a contribution. He would do a story and 
a novelette, both pieces that he had worked at earlier, and these 
would present no difficulties. Now that he had put aside the big 
novel, he felt as though he had grown wings. What with the recom- 
pense for one of these projected pieces and a tidy sum from his 
friend Pleshcheyev out of an imminent inheritance, he was sure to 
be on his feet by April. Meanwhile, Mikhail must for the last time 
come to his rescue. 

Mikhail did so by securing him an advance from the publisher 
of Russkoye slovo (The Russian Word), a review which was about 
to be launched. But this was insufficient to cover his debts, and by 
March, 1858, he was again anxiously asking himself where the next 
rouble would come from. This time he was saved by an advance he 
received from Katkov. He planned to give Russkoye slovo his story 
— a fragment had detached itself from the long novel he had aban- 
doned — and Russky vestnik his novelette. After the lapse of all 
these years he was once more putting himself in bondage by selling 
his unwritten work, as he had repeatedly sworn not to do. 


The work on his first commission, the short story, had been going 
badly. He hinted that he was hindered by circumstances other 
than the arrival of a new commander. Perhaps what he was thus 
guardedly referring to was trouble at home. With little Pasha placed 
in a school at Omsk and no greater household concerns than were 
given her by their four-room flat, his wife had little to do but brood 
over the marriage she had just made. What with her unstable tem- 
perament and his peculiarities, the uncertainties of their finances 
and of their health, there was much to disturb the conjugal harmony. 
Gossip had it that the situation was aggravated by her jealousy. 
There seem to have been scenes over a beautiful Polish girl, one time 
Dostoevsky's pupil, and so wild a creature that her elderly husband, 
before going out, secured himself against cuckoldry by closing a 
bureau-drawer on her long hair and locking it. The unhappiness that 
attended Dostoevsky's married life may have begun in those early 


days. Eight months after the wedding he was writing to his sister-in- 
law that he had a foreboding of death, not, he insisted, a hypochon- 
driac notion, but a matter-of-fact feeling: he had experienced every- 
thing possible, and life had nothing more to offer him. 

What life did offer him was a repetition of a state of affairs with 
which he had been well acquainted before he went to prison: money 
worries, illness, writing against time, the feeling that, thus driven, 
he was botching his work, and this when he was practically making 
his second debut. There was yet another spoke in the wheel: in 
January, 1858, he tendered his resignation from the army on the 
score of ill health, at the same time requesting the privilege of resi- 
dence in Moscow. To his petition he attached the following certifi- 
cate signed by "Yermakov, physician," on December 21, 1857: 

"I have examined Praporshchik Fyodor Mikhailovich I>ostoevsky 
in the presence of Captain Bakhirev and ascertained that he is 35 
years old and of middling physique. In 1850 he suffered his first 
attack of falling sickness {epilepsia) with these manifestations: out- 
cry, loss of consciousness, convulsions of extremities and face, foam 
at the mouth, stertorous breathing, small, fast, abbreviated pulse. 
The attack lasted fifteen minutes. Followed general weakness and 
return of consciousness. In 1853 he suffered another attack, and 
since then they occur at the end of every month. At present Dosto- 
evsky complains of general weakness and a run-down condition, also 
of frequent facial neuralgia due to an organic ailment of the brain. 
Although during the last four years he has been almost constantly 
under treatment for epilepsy, he has had no relief, and for that 
reason cannot continue in His Majesty's service." 

For over a year he was kept on tenterhooks waiting to have his 
resignation accepted. In February he learned that The Little Hero, 
the tale he had written in the fortress while waiting to be sentenced, 
had been published the previous year, in the August issue of Father- 
land Notes — news from home travelled slowly. This was disconcert- 
ing, for he had wanted to rewrite the piece. Still, there was comfort 
in the reflection that, though the story had been printed anony- 
mously, the Government was lifting the ban on his work. 

He had expected to finish the tale for Russkoye slovo — it was 
Uncles Dream — on December 15, 1857; actually it was com- 
pleted more than a twelvemonth later, and published in March, 


1859. The work agitated him so much that he had to take his time 
over it, goaded though he was. When Mikhail chided him for his 
tardiness he repHed with some heat that though he usually set a 
scene down in the first flush of inspiration as was right, he after- 
wards spent months and years polishing it. What kept him from 
getting on faster with the story was his feeling that in being re- 
introduced to the public with Uncle's Dream, he was not putting 
his best foot forward. Indeed, the tale shows no evidence of the 
maturity that time and suffering should have brought. It might 
well have been written before fate had cast him down. That he 
wrote it with one eye on the censor may account for its utter in- 
offensiveness. He himself was to describe it as "a trifle of dove- 
like gentleness and remarkable innocence.*' It is a farcical piece 
with a note of tragedy, peopled with caricatures and lay figures. 
In the background is the character made familiar by his early stories: 
the young dreamer who through some fatal flaw in his nature loses 
the woman he loves. The provincial setting alone is obviously the 
fruit of his Semipalatinsk experience, and he must have been paying 
off many old scores when he wrote that the provincials, because of 
their constant spying on each other, ought to be psychologists and 
specialists in human nature, but that instead they were mostly asses. 

All the while he was going on with the novel for Russky vest- 
nik: *'The Village of Stepanchikovo" (known in English and here- 
after referred to as "The Friend of the Family"). Not that he liked 
it any better than the other, but it had to be finished. He had good 
things in his head, but they were all in the nature of long novels. 
There was one in particular that he was set on, but he couldn't 
write it to order, and besides he had to be in Russia to work on it. 
It was his fate to write for money. "It is a wretched trade," he 
sighed, "that of a penniless author." On December 12, 1858, he 
said that he was sending off the novelette in a few days, but six 
months passed before he dispatched the final instalment to 

"The Friend of the Family" is a meatier piece of writing than its 
predecessor, more complex in design, and, though the narrative 
lags occasionally, shows a more sustained power. As in most of his 
early stories, the character dominating the action is a man who 
for years had eaten the bread of humiliation, his dignity outraged 


and trampled upon. Dostoevsky takes a new tack here by placing 
him in a position where he is the master, revered, pampered, adu- 
lated, and watches his antics as the absurd creature gives free rein 
to his limitless conceit, lords it over everyone in his neighbour- 
hood, and smothers all in unctuous rhetoric. The author achieves his 
effect through overstatement, hyperbole, excess, until one sees his 
Foma Fomich, larger than life, the embodiment of a monstrous 
vanity that is merely his overcompensation for insults previously 
endured. The other characters, all of whom revolve around Foma 
and dance to his piping, are drawn in less detail, with the possible 
exception of the nominal master of the house, a rhan with a heart 
of gold, a naive soul whose boundless kindness is matched only by 
his reverence for ideals. This story, with its genial tone, its happy 
ending, bears little evidence of having been written by an ex-convict. 
One might perhaps see some trace of Dostoevsky*s bitter experience 
in the fact that he chose to draw a slave in power, tyrannizing over 
his betters, while the pure in heart is something of a gullible fool. 
It took long years for the emotions and ideas germinated in the 
darkness of the prison to ripen and bear fruit in his writings. 

He was making his final preparations for the event that had for 
so long been the centre of his hopes — departure from Siberia. His 
resignation was accepted in March, 1859, and he was permitted 
to return to Russia, though he would have to live not in Moscow as 
he had wished, but in the provinces. He chose as his residence the 
city of Tver, which is situated on the railway line between Moscow 
and Petersburg. The money for the trek of twenty-five hundred miles 
came in the form of an additional advance from Russkoye slovo. 
But the sum would not keep him after they reached Kazan. For 
the last time Mikhail must save him by sending a remittance poste 
restante to that city, or he would find himself stranded in a strange 


They bought a tarantass in which to make the trip, with the 
expectation of disposing of it at the end of the journey. They sold 
whatever they could, including Marya Dmitrievna's hats, presum- 
ably because they would be too outlandish to wear at home. The 
great day, July 2, 1859. dawned clear and fine. The farewells were 


long and effusive, and there was much clinking of glasses before 
the late afternoon hour at which they set off. 

A postillion accompanied them all the way, and they changed 
horses and drivers at each posting station. The weather was ad- 
mirable and the road smooth. Their first stop was Omsk, that place 
of bleak memories. Here they picked up Pasha and went on their 
way. The weather continued fine, and though the road grew worse, 
the carriage held out bravely, nor was there any delay in getting 
fresh horses. Aside from two attacks during the early part of the 
trip, Dostoevsky kept well. The only fly in the ointment was the 
staggering prices they had to pay for food and other necessaries 
at the stations: it got so that on being told the cost of this or that 
article the traveller would look fearfully into the eye of the vendor 
to see if the man was in his right mind. Yekaterinburg (now Sverd- 
lovsk) was the exception, and there, tempted by the cheapness of 
the goods displayed, they bought all manner of knick-knacks to 
take home as presents. 

One glorious afternoon towards five o'clock they came to a forest 
clearing where a tall post marked the borderline between Asia 
and Europe. They all clambered out. His feet once more on native 
ground, Dostoevsky crossed himself. Before him, by the Lord's 
mercy, lay the promised land. It was ten years since he had stood 
in the snowy darkness, fronting in the opposite direction, and saying 
a mute good-bye to Europe and his youth. These years had tem- 
pered and toughened him. They had robbed him of something for- 
ever and brought him strange and terrible gifts in exchange. But this 
was not the time for reckoning profit and loss. The vodka flask in its 
wicker basket came out, and everybody, not forgetting the faithful 
postillion and the coachman and the veteran who guarded the post, 
drank to the hour. Then Dostoevsky, with an unaccustomed sense of 
freedom, wandered off with Masha and the child, to explore the 
woods and pick the wild strawberries that dotted this beloved earth. 

When they set out again it was to travel through virgin forests 
vSO splendid that even one as indifferent to natural beauty as Dosto- 
evsky could not but be enchanted and lifted out of his current anxie- 
ties. They seized him again when he reached the Volga and found 
himself in Kazan, as he had foreseen, without enough money to 
complete the trip. A tedious and expensive wait of ten days followed. 

V" If 


Drawing by Trutovsky 


Then the remittance came from Mikhail and they went on, catching 
a glimpse of the great fair at Nizhny and stopping to visit the Troit- 
zky monastery to which as a boy he used to be taken by his mother. 
He was less moved by its associations than amazed by its treasures 
and monuments: the Byzantine chapels, the rich jewels, the old 
books, the needlework of tsarinas, the garments of Ivan the Terrible. 
And then came the domes and gables of Tver, the goal of the long 

At Tver they were "settled on a pin-point." They would soon 
be moving on to Petersburg, but how soon? The uncertainty was 
nerve-racking. They were travelling standing still. The promised 
land was proving no nearer the heart's desire than the wilderness. 
Indeed, Tver was the most hateful city in the world, a thousand 
times worse than Semipalatinsk: no interests, no life, bleak, cold, 
stony — a prison. He was so close to, and yet, considering the 
wretched postal service, so far from his friends and relatives in the 
two capitals. And here they had to set up housekeeping, spend their 
last few roubles on such essentials as a samovar, and wait. Of course, 
everything was very expensive, and there was no buyer for the 
Siberian chaise, the family's sole capital. Masha, being without a 
bonnet, was confined to their furnished flat, which did not improve 
her disposition. 

At once disaster swooped. Katkov, after some hemming and 
hawing, turned down "The Friend of the Family" and told the 
author that he could get his manuscript as soon as he refunded 
the five hundred roubles that had been advanced to him. Far from 
being sunk, Dostoevsky was buoyed up by the familiar waters of 
calamity. His faith in the httle novel was unshaken: if it was long- 
drawn-out and bad in places, it had moments of high comedy. 
When, therefore, at the end of August, Mikhail came to embrace 
the brother from whom an evil fate and long years had divided 
him, Dostoevsky was able to persuade him to redeem the manu- 
script and try to place it elsewhere. They had five days in which 
to renew their intimacy. It was a diflScult business, but they made 
a start. At last there was somebody to whom Dostoevsky could 
unburden himself, to whom he could speak freely of his plans, to 
whom he could retail the plots of the novels that he was revolv- 
ing in his mind. When it came to the question of getting permis- 


sion to live in Petersburg, they decided to do nothing until after 
September 8, when he might come under the amnesty that was ex- 
pected on a state occasion. 

Mikhail set off at once to secure the manuscript and, having 
obtained it, offered it to Sovremennik. Dostoevsky was out of sym- 
pathy with its liberal outlook, but it was an important review, and 
he was anxious to see his name in it. His situation was desperate, 
but when Nekrasov, who had privately decided that Dostoevsky 
was played out and would not come back, offered him less than 
the figure he had set, he instructed Mikhail to refuse it. They must 
put a good face on a bad business and hold out for the right price. 
They must bargain, they must haggle, they must pit one editor 
against another. What he wants is not glory, but money. After 
much manoeuvring and many worries, the novel was bought by 
his old employer, Krayevsky, at Dostoevsky's figure and appeared 
in Fatherland Notes at the end of the year. 

The sale of the manuscript saved the situation, and with a little 
help from Mikhail and his sisters, he was able to face the future. 
If only he could collect his writings and publish them in book 
form, either on his own or through a bookseller. This would keep 
him going and allow him to concentrate on a big piece of work. It 
was October when, after some hesitation, he decided to turn his 
hand to writing an account of his prison days. He assured Mikhail 
that he would finish it in six weeks. Then he planned to settle down 
to his great novel. It was the work that he had conceived in prison, 
his "confession," the thought of which had been with him con- 
stantly. He would put his heart's blood into it. He felt that he was 
now ripe for it, that it would be his definitive utterance. It would be 
a trilogy, and would allow him to work in a story of passion, the idea 
for which had come to him later and which he had never used. With 
his incurable optimism as to his speed, he gave himself three or 
four months to finish the first part. 

In spite of his fine intentions and his courageous mood, he could 
not keep his promises to himself — his situation was too difficult. 
His illness persisted, and what was the use of going to provincial 
doctors? They were either young men just out of school or old 
fogies who had forgotten all the medicine they had ever known. 
Also, he was finding a few more creases in the marriage bed. Masha 


was uneasy. He could not help feeling that she feared he would die 
here in Tver and leave her and her child in the same position that 
his predecessor had left them. And there was always the oppressive 
uncertainty as to how soon they could leave this miserable place. 
The eagerly anticipated eighth of September left matters unchanged. 
Something had to be done. 

Dostoevsky was not without friends in Tver, and though social 
life in the provinces was something of a nuisance, it had its uses. 
He was in fact received socially by the governor himself, and this 
high official undertook to transmit the petition which Dostoevsky 
decided to address to the emperor. It was an abject missive in which 
he requested permission to live in Petersburg in order to get the 
medical attention which would, he trusted, prevent his attacks from 
ending in death or insanity. He also put in a request for a scholar- 
ship for his stepson Pavel in a secondary school or cadet corps. In 
conclusion he compared the emperor to the sun shining on the just 
and unjust alike, and declared himself ready to give up his life for 
him. He also wrote in a similar strain to General Todleben, who 
had responded to his appeal on a previous occasion, and to Prince 
Dolgorukov, the Chief of the Gendarmerie. In fact he wrote to so 
many possible benefactors at once that he thereby delayed his release 
from the Tver captivity. In November he slipped off to Moscow for 
a short visit to the relatives there and returned more resentful of 
his confinement and more fretted by the uncertainty of his lot than 
ever. His delivery came in the middle of December, and the Christ- 
mas Eve that marked the tenth anniversary of his departure for 
Siberia he was able to spend in Petersburg with Mikhail. 


1IKE birth, resurrection is traumatic. Back home, Dostoevsky had 
not only to rediscover his friends, to re-establish himself in 
-/literature, to plunge from the stagnant backwaters of Siberia 
into the quick current of metropolitan life, but to adjust himself 
to an altered world, to an age that had a different complexion from 
that which he had known ten years earlier. 

Some intimations of the change had reached him in his isolation. 
But now he had to take the full impact of the serious sixties. In 
the distant days before his exile, a few earnest souls used to come 
together and explore possible roads to Utopia and talk, under the 
rose, about the need for the correction of public evils. Now the 
Government itself was pushing great reforms, chief of all the libera- 
tion of the serfs, and official corruption had been so freely and 
loudly denounced at every dinner-table, in the press, on the stage, 
that the subject had become tedious. Russia, in the words of an 
underground leaflet of the day — one of the first of its kind — had 
entered upon "the revolutionary period of its existence." The Cri- 
mean campaign had had the usual effect of a disastrous foreign 
war: it had lowered the prestige of the Government at home. The 
death of the iron Nicholas in the midst of defeat had brought to the 
throne a monarch bent on giving the country a new deal. Men 
were not only responsive to ideas of change, but, what was unprece- 
dented, they were eager for a practical programme. The Western- 
ist orientation had a greater following than Slavophilism. The 
younger generation of both sexes was hard-headed, blatant, cynical, 
materialistic, or at least liked to think itself as such. This harsh 
temper was in part due to the fact that there was an increasing 
number of commoners among the intellectuals. They scorned fine 
sentiments as they did the fine arts, turned their backs on old- 
fashioned morality trod upon conventions, threw religion over- 



board, made a fetish of science. Because of their eagerness to deny 
all accepted values, these young people were soon to win for them- 
selves the name of nihilists, though the term, which owed its popu- 
larity to Turgenev's use of it in Fathers and Children, eventually 
came to be applied by the general public, especially the more con- 
servative element, to all extremists, particularly those who were 
politically-minded. The latter were not disarmed by the concessions 
that Alexander II's government granted. In this freer air the spirit 
of opposition grew and flourished. Before long it would identify 
itself with the faith and works of revolutionary socialism. 

One thing was clear to Dostoevsky: he could not be with these 
rebels. They were ready to welcome a political prisoner returning 
from exile, but in those ten years he had lost all touch with the young 
man who had attended the Petrashevsky Fridays, had read Belin- 
sky's letter before a responsive gathering and had had a hand in 
setting up a secret press. He would not carry one brick to the 
socialist edifice. It was another tower of Babel. He stood with 
Christ. He was a faithful communicant; he was a loyal subject. 

He fell in naturally with people of a conservative temper. They 
were his contemporaries, or slightly younger than he, interested, 
like himself, in public affairs and trafficking in social and political 
ideas. It was not, however, a particularly distinguished circle, its 
members being mostly lesser lights in the world of letters, with 
a scattering of the other professions. He found some familiars here, 
such as Apollon Maikov and Yanovsky. He found some strangers 
too. Mikhail's house was one of their meeting-grounds, and of 
course Dostoevsky took a leading place. There was something at- 
tractive about this pale, big-browed man with the military mous- 
tache and the look of a plebeian; his history — of which he said little 
— was unusual, his mind original, his talk simple, vehement, preg- 
nant. He spoke freely in the presence of his old friends and he was 
stimulated by the presence of such new ones as the lovable drunk- 
ard, Apollon Grigoryev, and the detached young philosopher, 
Nikolay Strakhov. 

But though no longer thrown back upon his own resources, it 
was not easy for the ex-convict to find his bearings in the confusion 
of the new era. For so many years he had been forced to hold his 
peace. He had so much to hear; he had so much to say. No wonder 


that when he began to speak, he stammered a bit and sometimes 
contradicted himself. He wasn't, moreover, content with the role of 
a writer of fiction: there was an urge in him to reshape the actual 
world not merely in his imagination, but also in fact. Before he left 
Siberia he had been nursing the notion of having a corner in some 
journal where he could express the ideas that had been bottled up 
within him, and could comment on what he would find going on 
around him. In Tver the notion had crysallized into a project for 
founding a review with his brother. Mikhail, for his part, was also 
anxious to get into the publishing business and, indeed, the pre- 
vious year he had secured a permit to issue a weekly. Dostoevsky, 
in this at least the same man he had been a dozen years before, was 
sure that with their abilities, the two of them could easily make a 

They decided to launch a large review. While Mikhail, the owner, 
was business manager, Dostoevsky undertook the editorial duties 
and was generally the one to determine the policy of the magazine. 
Strakhov and Grigoryev were among his steady collaborators. The 
first issue of Vremya (Time), as the periodical was called, appeared 
in January, 1861. 

The field was by no means a crowded one, though on the other 
hand, the reading public was extremely limited. Fatherland Notes, 
Dostoevsky's old market, though still under the same management, 
had gone downhill. Sovremennik, on the contrary, was flourishing 
under the direction of the radical Chernyshevsky, upon whom the 
mantle of Belinsky had fallen. The new magazine, Russky vestnik, 
was coming to the fore. It was then progressive, in accordance with 
the spirit of the times. A more recent arrival on the scene was 
Russkoye slovo which was soon to become the organ of the nihilists. 
And there was yet another publication, not advertised, not indeed, 
publicly mentioned, but perhaps more avidly read, Kolokol (The 
Bell), published abroad and smuggled into Russia. Its editor, Alex- 
ander Herzen, was the most prominent and influential of the ex- 
patriates who were beginning to cluster in London, Paris, and 
Geneva, and there work for radical reforms and, indeed, revolution 
at home. 

To be successful in Russia in those years, a magazine had to be 
the organ of a cause. Vremya, Dostoevsky decided, could not align 


itself either with the Westerners or the Slavophils. His review would 
fly its own flag. The magazine, he announced, would seek to bridge 
the abyss that Peter the Great had opened between the educated 
classes and the common people. There was no obstacle to a union 
between the intellectuals and the men of the soil, because, he in- 
sisted, quite forgetting what his lot as a "gentleman" had been in 
prison, Russia, unlike the West, knew no class antagonisms. Along 
with this "silent revolution" must go recognition of Russia's dis- 
tinctiveness. "Our task is to create for ourselves a new form of our 
own, indigenous, taken from our soil, deriving from the national 
spirit and national principles." One of these was autocratic govern- 
ment, the political expression of an essentially monolithic people. 
Another was "panhumanism," an instinct which enabled Russians 
to identify themselves with people of alien cultures and which sug- 
gested that it was Russia's mission to unite mankind by combining 
the ideals of the separate nations in a living synthesis. Dostoevsky 
was to reiterate this idea without making it plausible. 

He was thus setting up on a pedestal the traditions he had once 
dared to question. He was obviously trying to connect the two 
phases of his existence: the Western culture that he had absorbed 
as a young man and the appreciation of the people that had come to 
him in prison in his contacts with his fellow convicts. He had known 
an intellectual life, he was knowing it again, but on the other hand, 
he had lived alongside the plain folk, with the worst of them, and 
he wanted to bring those two halves of his experience together. 

These confused nationalist and populist ideas carried an intimate 
meaning for him, but they were not fruitful as a programme for the 
magazine. Its pages reiterated the doctrine that salvation lay in the 
soil and the people. But what this salvation implied in practice and 
what steps must be taken to achieve it, remained something of a 
mystery. There was some talk of the abolition of ranks and the 
moral regeneration of the classes, but one practical step Vremya 
advocated was the spread of literacy among the masses, a measure 
favoured by all but the blackest reactionaries. The editors' national- 
ist bias should from the first have drawn them to the Slavophils, 
from whom Dostoevsky borrowed many of his ideas, notably the 
theory of Russia's "panhumanism." Indeed, eventually he would 
find himself with this group. For the present, however, he held aloof. 


There was that in their attitude which went against his grain. Their 
snobbishness irritated him. It was obvious in everything they said 
that they were comfortable gentry, with lands and houses and, only 
a little while ago, serfs. He had nothing but his pen between him 
and starvation. Indeed, the scorn of the literary proletarian for the 
privileged breaks out more than once in his writings. 

Liking the Westerners even less than he did the Slavophils, un- 
willing to identify his magazine with either, believing, indeed, that 
both were played out, he attacked now the one, now the other. Yet 
in some respects Vremya was an organ of liberal opinion, and 
was looked at askance by the authorities. It stood for the great re- 
forms of the period, advocated the emancipation of women, flaunted 
democratic sentiments, rapped those who idealized medieval Mus- 
covy, printed contributions from Nekrasov and other acknowledged 
radicals, and once took an enlightened stand on the Jewish question. 
In an editorial note appended to a translation of Hugo's Notre 
Dame, Dostoevsky wrote: "The basic idea of the art of the nine- 
teenth century is the rehabilitation of the oppressed social pariah, 
and perhaps toward the end of the century this idea will be embodied 
in some great work as expressive of our age as the Divine Comedy 
was of the Middle Ages." The materialistic element in the hberal 
complex was one thing that he could not stomach, and yet he was 
capable of saying on at least one occasion that while he didn't think 
he came out of a retort, he could nevertheless see that one might 
believe that wicked nonsense and yet be a good man. When, in the 
fall of 1861, certain university students were thrown into prison for 
protesting against the Government's attempt to restrict their liber- 
ties, the editors of Vremya expressed sympathy with the rebels by 
sending them a huge roast beef, prepared in Mikhail's kitchen, along 
with a bottle of cognac and one of red wine. During that winter 
Dostoevsky figured together with Chernyshevsky on the programme 
of a literary soiree which was designed as a parade of progressives, 
and which resulted in the deportation of one of the speakers. Al- 
though at heart he did not feel himself a wronged man, he was 
not averse to making capital of his martyrdom as a political 

One morning in May, 1862, Dostoevsky, like many other people 
in the capital, found at his door a leaflet entitled Young Russia, 


the work of several Moscow students, secretly printed and issued 
in the name of the Central Revolutionary Committee, a fictitious 
organization. This was the leaflet mentioned earlier as having de- 
clared that Russia had entered the revolutionary period of its exis- 
tence. It called for total destruction of the existing order, expressed 
assurance that Russia was destined to be the first "to realize social- 
ism" and ended with the words: "Long live the Russian social and 
democratic republic!" By chance the appearance of this blood- 
thirsty proclamation coincided with a series of fires that ravaged the 
capital as well as other cities. Consequently, it was rumoured that 
the conflagrations were a case of revolutionary incendiarism. 

Vremya was one of the few organs of the press that tried to dis- 
credit this theory and to absolve the student body as a whole from 
responsibility for the Young Russia proclamation. The editor in- 
tended to run an article on the subject, but two versions of it were 
forbidden by the censor and the magazine barely escaped suspen- 
sion for its "harmful tendency," in the words of the chairman of the 
commission that investigated the fires. On the other hand, when 
the fires first broke out, Dostoevsky apparently gave credence to 
the idea that they were the work of revolutionaries. He rushed to 
Chernyshevsky and implored him to use his good offices with the 
young hotheads so as to keep them from further excesses. Cherny- 
shevsky, who was scarcely acquainted with his visitor but knew 
him to be an epileptic, was amazed by the absurd request and, fear- 
ful lest argument make him violent, gave him every soothing re- 

The concessions to the liberal point of view prevailing at the 
time may have been made with a view to securing more subscribers. 
In his usual blunt fashion Apollon Grigoryev said that Vremya 
was trying to serve both God and Mammon. More probably, the 
ambiguity of its position reflected the confusion in Dostoevsky's 
mind on the leading issues of the day. He had a feeble grasp on 
political realities. Either because he was always provocative, no 
matter how muddled his thinking might be, or because he was a 
skilful editor, Vremya achieved a remarkable success. In the second 
year of its existence it had more than four thousand subscribers, 
and was practically a rival of Sovremermik, the most influential 
progressive review of the period. 



Dostoevsky wore the editorial yoke with a will. He selected material 
for several departments, he revised and annotated manuscripts, he 
read proof, he contributed serious essays and light pieces, he en- 
gaged in controversy — polemics was the life of the magazines of the 
day — he wrote exhibition notices and book reviews, he had a hand 
in the section on current events, he composed the annual advertise- 
ment calculated to catch the subscriber. He admonished, prophe- 
sied, jeered, entertained. He was in his element. Newspapers and 
reviews had always constituted a large part of his reading. Although 
he was outraged by the current idea that literature was merely a 
tool of social betterment, he was anything but content with an ivory 
tower. He was always ready to climb down and travel the dusty 
road of journalism. To be in the thick of things, to comment on the 
passing scene, to form public opinion — this was a satisfaction second 
only to that of his main business as a novelist. 

The transition from being turned inward upon himself, in a place 
where the latest paper was a month old, to heading a large national 
review, was a dizzying experience, and one which fed his sense 
of power. No wonder, then, that he plunged into the work with a 
kind of frenzy. But here was this wretched unmanageable body of 
his. It was always on the point of playing him false. In March, 
1861, when the April issue was being prepared, he was struck 
down by an epileptic seizure of unusual violence and lay uncon- 
scious for nearly three days. It was his fate to have to work by fits 
and starts. 

Gradually life fell into as much of a routine as the attacks allowed. 
He was temporarily released from the iron vice of poverty. Shortly 
after returning to Petersburg he succeeded in getting a bookseller 
to issue a two-volume edition of his collected works, and when, 
the next year, Vremya made its appearance, there was always a 
little money to be had. His rooms were on an unkempt street in a 
poor, crowded neighbourhood, a few blocks away from Mikhail's 
house, where the editorial offices were located. Nearby was Strak- 
hov's lodging. Dostoevsky usually reached the office around three 
o'clock, having just breakfasted on a cup of tea. At the first oppor- 


tunity he had reverted to his habit of working at night, and accord- 
ingly slept late. At Mikhail's he would generally find Strakhov, and 
perhaps one or two others; they would look over the mail together, 
read the papers, discuss the news, and then go for a stroll until 
dinner time. Petersburg was a dreadful place — the look of it de- 
pressed one, the climate killed one. But, after all, everybody who 
lived the life of the mind was there. Often he would drop in on 
Strakhov again at seven o'clock and have tea with him. There were 
many things about this man to attract Dostoevsky: his wide culture, 
his anti-mechanistic stand, his critical acumen. Himself interested 
in fundamentals, he liked to philosophize with Strakhov, who had 
had the formal training he had missed, and who had enough of the 
pedagogue in him to enjoy delivering little lectures on biology, on 
the limits of knowledge, on modes and substance. 

During their long hours together Strakhov observed his friend 
closely. He found in him "a peculiar duality": Dostoevsky was 
capable of giving himself up to certain thoughts and feelings, but 
his surrender was not complete; a part of his mind played the role 
of an unconcerned onlooker. It was from the deep, secret chamber 
of the self where the beholder was stationed, Strakhov suggested 
rather unreasonably, that the energy came that flowed into his art. 
Dostoevsky was himself aware of his habit of watching his own 
reactions; as though in a single body there were an actor and an 
audience of one. 

Because Strakhov had the philosopher's serenity without his 
dullness, Dostoevsky was glad to have him by during the fits of 
dejection which so often assailed him, as well as when he was re- 
covering from the throes of an epileptic attack. Strakhov left an 
account of one seizure which he witnessed in 1863. It was Easter 
Eve, near midnight, and the two were alone at Strakhov's deep in 
talk. *'He [Dostoevsky] was saying something that was full of exal- 
tation and joy. When I supported his thoughts with a remark, he 
turned to me with the face of one at the peak of ecstasy. He hesita- 
ted a moment as though seeking for a word, and had already opened 
his lips to pronounce it. I looked at him with keen attention, feeling 
that he was about to say something extraordinary, that I would hear 
some revelation. Suddenly, a strange, long-drawn-out, meaningless 
moan issued from his mouth, and he dropped to the floor uncon- 


scious. . . . The body was rigid with convulsions and foam appeared 
at the corners of the mouth." It was common for the attack to be 
preceded by an instant of such ecstasy as Strakhov noticed on his 
companion's face. "For a few moments," Dostoevsky used to say, 
"I experience such happiness as is impossible under ordinary con- 
ditions, and of which other people can have no notion. I feel com- 
plete harmony in myself and in the world, and this feeling is so 
strong and sweet that for several seconds of such bliss one would 
give ten years of one's life, indeed, perhaps one's whole life." 

In The Idiot, there is a detailed account of Prince Myshkin's 
epileptic aura. "The sensation of life, the consciousness of self, 
were multiplied almost tenfold at these moments, which lasted no 
longer than a lightning-flash. His mind and his heart were flooded 
with extraordinary light; all his vexations, all his doubts, all his 
anxieties were laid to rest at once, as it were; they were all resolved 
into a lofty calm, full of serene, harmonious joy and hope, full of 
reason and ultimate comprehension. But these moments, these 
flashes, were only k premonition of that final second (it was never 
more than a second) with which the fit began. That second was of 
course unendurable." The moment is further described as giving 
"a feeling, unheard of and unsuspected till then, of completeness, 
of proportion, of reconciliation, and of startled devotional merging 
with the highest synthesis of life." Dostoevsky has his hero reflect 
that this moment of ecstasy, of "being at its highest," is but part 
of his disease, and yet Myshkin arrives at the paradox that this 
"extraordinary strengthening of the consciousness of self," however 
abnormal in origin and destructive in effect, remains a real, a 
supreme value, and is indeed "worth the whole of life." Dostoevsky 
does not mention in this passage the depression which followed the 
fit and which was as acute as the premonitory bliss. What domin- 
ated him in this black mood was an unaccountable feeling that he 
was an evildoer, that he had committed a terrible crime which had 
gone unpunished. 


His relations with his wife after his return from Siberia are some- 
thing of a mystery. At first they shared living quarters — Strakhov 
caught a glimpse of her one day and long remembered her delicate 


pleasing features and her pallor. Later on she stayed alone, at least 
part of the time, in Tver or Vladimir, where the climate was less 
unfriendly to a consumptive than in the capital. Before long she 
was reduced to tlie existence of a bed-ridden invalid. So little is 
heard of her that it was as though Dostoevsky were leading the life 
of a bachelor. If he did not, like his brother Mikhail, "the last of 
the romantics," keep a mistress, he may well have allowed himself 
sexual adventures outside the marriage bond. It is not impossible 
that the lurid incident retailed in "Notes from the Underground" 
derives from experiences of this period. He was moving in a circle 
where, according to Strakhov, people were tolerant of "all kinds of 
physical excesses and abnormalities" and where, though "spiritual 
vileness was judged strictly and subtly, carnal vileness did not count 
at all." Such an attitude toward sins spiritual and carnal was pecu- 
liarly congenial to Dostoevsky. The evidence of his own indulgence 
in the excesses and abnormalities, which is incomplete, must be 
discussed elsewhere. 

It is certain that his marriage had not proved a happy one. From 
Tver he wrote to Wrangel: "If you ask me, what shall I say? I've 
taken family cares upon me, and I bear the burden." He confided 
the nature of their private difficulties to at least one person, a 
woman, and discreet. He had met her during the first year of his 
stay in Petersburg, at one of Mikhail's modest evening parties. She 
v/as a fascinating little actress who had taken his old friend Yanov- 
sky as her second husband. She was estranged from him at this 
time, partly because he objected to her continuing on the boards. 
Dostoevsky sided with her, and she was naturally delighted to find 
a champion in a friend of the doctor's who was also a writer of note. 
Dostoevsky, for his part, relished the society of a charming woman, 
who was bathed in the glamour of the stage and whose grace and 
good humour relieved him from the tension in which he habitually 
lived. There was some talk of dramatizing Netochka Nezvanova 
and giving her the lead, but that came to nothing. 

She was playing in Moscow when he went there for a glimpse of 
the old city in the spring of 1860, and it was during one of his visits 
that he opened his heart to her on the subject of his own domestic 
circumstances. When his return to Petersburg made it impossible 
to talk to her, he wrote to her, thereby arousing Yanovsky's lively 


suspicions. Dostoevsky saw that the man was suffering from two 
kinds of jealousy: that of love and that of self-love, and said so in 
a letter to the actress. He also took occasion to assure her that he 
himself loved her too disinterestedly, too fervently, to be in love 
with her. Either because she had no use for his affection, or because 
he had exaggerated its fervour, she seems to have dropped suddenly 
and completely out of his life. Yanovsky, too, practically disappears 
from the picture. As a successful administrator — he ultimately won 
the rank of general — he felt that it did not become him to mix with 
mere scribblers. 


Dostoevsky was scribbling away at a great rate. In addition to 
his publicist writing, there was his fiction. The opening issue of 
Vremya carried as its chief attraction the initial instalment of a full- 
sized novel from his pen, under the title. The Humbled and Insulted, 
known in English as The Insulted and Injured. 

This was not the great and final work he had been planning to 
write as soon as he returned from exile. Of that nothing further 
is heard. In fact, this "feuilleton novel," as he called it, is so far 
from being his projected masterpiece that one must scan it closely 
to find in it traces of his genius. He had written it in a hurry, be- 
cause the review was in need of a novel, he said by way of excuse, 
and of necessity had filled it with puppets. The excuse is scarcely 
acceptable. He seems to have taken considerable time over it, and 
even if that were not the case, some of his best work was written 
in haste. Be that as it may, there is much in the book that is either 
derivative — his models ranging from Sue to Hoffman — or half 
thought-out and faulty in execution. The pages drip with thick, 
syrupy sentiment, and many of the characters and situations are the 
stock-in-trade of the mystery tale and such dusty appurtenances of 
melodrama as the implacable father who refuses to forgive a 
daughter abandoned by her lover. 

And yet this narrative is the work of an unconventional novelist. 
His signature is unmistakable on the pages devoted to the immoral- 
ist. Prince Valkovsky, and on those in which he deals with the 
fourteen-year-old Nelly and her unhappy mother. The two are 
figures in a secondary plot. This parallels the main fable, which 


IS an unusual version of the eternal triangle and treats an order of 
emotions not generally exploited in melodrama. Four persons are 
involved: Vanya, loving Natasha, does everything in his power to 
promote her happiness with Alyosha; the latter, an irresponsible 
youth, includes in his affections both Natasha and Katya; each of 
the two girls is prepared to surrender her own happiness to that of 
the other. One recognizes Dostoevsky's hand in the concern with 
these emotional complications and one discovers some of his own 
features in Vanya. He is an ailing man, a writer whose literary 
debut is practically a transcript of Dostoevsky's experience and 
whose role is not unlike his creator's when he all but assisted his 
future wife into marriage with another. 

If the story has a meaning, it lies in the contrast between the love 
that *'seeketh not itself to please" and the lust of the man who 
knows no law but that of his own appetite. It is clear that the author 
is on the side of the angels. Yet he allows virtue to be its own, and 
only, reward. The insulted and injured go unavenged, while the 
unconscionable Alyosha gets Katya, and the unspeakable prince, 
favoured by fortune in every respect, is left in secure possession of 
his ill-gotten gains and about to marry a young heiress. The novel 
excoriates starry-eyed idealism and contains an angry caricature of 
the Petrashevsky coterie. It may be taken as a farewell to the Utop- 
ian dreams that haunted Dostoevsky's youth. 

If he had the unhappiness of knowing that his first ambitious 
effort since his return to literature was, for all the welcome it re- 
ceived from an undiscriminating public, a mediocre piece of work, 
he had reason to feel that it was merely a misstep. He had some- 
thing to say and he would yet find a way to say it. For the present, 
he had another iron in the fire: his prison memoirs. He had begun 
jotting down reminiscences of his life as a convict shortly after his 
release. He may have started writing them even before his chains 
were struck off. It is certain that he had brought back from Siberia 
a notebook containing scraps of prison argot and barrack talk which 
he had set down on the spot. It was during the hard weeks in Tver, 
when he seemed to be neither bond nor free, that the work took 
definite shape in his head. He was calling it Notes from the Dead 
House (known in English and hereafter referred to as The House 
of the Dead), and though he planned to make it impersonal, he was 


sure it would be a gripping thing, full of stuff that was new to liter- 
ature. Besides, a liberal audience — and what part of the reading 
public could not be so described in those days? — would lap up 
the story of the life in prison of a former poHtical convict. He ex- 
pected to have it ready by December 1. Actually it was serialized 
in Vremya two years later, in 1861-2, after the appearance of the 
early chapters in a newspaper the previous year. 

In spite of the thin pretence of being the memoirs of a man who 
had served a ten-year sentence for killing his wife. The House of 
the Dead is so patently woven of Dostoevsky's own experiences as 
to furnish practically a complete record of his prison days. Never- 
theless, the book is for the most part impersonal, as he had wished 
it to be, and always gripping. The author, as might be expected, does 
some psychologizing. He accounts for the convicts' drinking bouts 
and such splurging as was possible for them, their extreme touchi- 
ness and bragging, their sudden outbursts of violence, by their un- 
conscious longing, branded and fettered as they were, to assert 
themselves, their terrible need to taste at least an illusion of free- 
dom. Time and distance had softened and enobled the faces that 
looked so coarse and vicious when he had first come to live among 
them. In fact, he is not free from a tendency to idealize his fellow 
prisoners. He describes two or three of the convicts as examples 
of moral excellence. "Perhaps," he ventures, referring to the crimi- 
nals, "they are the most gifted, the strongest of our people," and he 
speaks of the mighty energies that have been wasted within the 
prison walls. On the other hand, several monsters stalk through 
these pages. Men of immense strength of will, they are inaccessible 
to repentance and look down on the common herd, those who 
honour the moral code whether they observe or break it. Prison 
gave Dostoevsky an insight into the nature of evil which violently 
shook his faith in man's native goodness. "The characteristics of the 
executioner," he remarks casually, "exist in embryo in almost 
every man of to-day." Both gnomic utterances and psychological 
observations are, however, merely parenthetical in this account of 
convict life, as straightforward as it is masterly. 

In some respects this book stands apart from the entire body of 
Dostoevsky's work. It differs from the rest as a drawing differs 
from a portrait in oils. The dispassionate observer stands between 


the characters and the reader, and prevents that intimate contact 
with them that Dostoevsky's fiction affords. It is the situations, not 
the people, that are memorable. Here is not a work of imagination, 
but what may be called a "documentary." It lacks the feverish, troub- 
ling, subversive quality that is his hallmark, and one is not surprised 
to find Tolstoy, who was out of sympathy with Dostoevsky's most 
characteristic work, placing this wholesome book at the head and 
front of his confrere's performance. Behind the prison walls there 
is no one who doubts that life is worth living if one is free, no one 
who asks whether freedom is ever diflficult or dangerous. It is curi- 
ous that in The House of the Dead, which is obviously auto- 
biographical, the author's inner life should remain out of the picture, 
while in his fictional writing, one constantly detects his lineaments 
in the features of his imagined saints and criminals. 


IN THE last century Western Europe exercised the same fascina- 
tion over the Russian mind that it still does over the American. 
"To the Russian," Dostoevsky has a sympathetic character in 
one of his later novels observe, "Europe is as precious as Russia; 
every stone in her is cherished and dear. Europe was as much our 
fatherland as Russia. Oh, even more so! It is impossible to love 
Russia more than I do, but I never reproached myself because 
Venice, Rome, Paris, the treasures of their arts and sciences, their 
whole history, are dearer to me than Russia. Oh, those old, alien 
stones, those wonders of God's ancient world, those fragments of 
holy wonders are dear to the Russian, and are even dearer to us 
than to the inhabitants of those lands themselves." 

Dostoevsky had no memory of the time when he had not been 
dreaming of visiting that part of the world, particularly Italy. If 
only he had a chance to tread that fabulous soil while there was still 
some vigour and heat and poetry left in him! Finally, in the summer 
of 1862, the wish was realized. He had completed The House of the 
Dead and it was running serially in the magazine. Moreover, he had 
sold the rights to its publication in book form for the substantial 
sum of twenty-five hundred roubles. Vremya was going well enough 
for him to leave it in Mikhail's hands with only a few qualms for 
thus shirking his responsibility. He found reasons, though not very 
adequate ones, for leaving his wife behind. 

His heart leapt as the train crossed the frontier at Eydtkunen. 
He was excited, and he was puzzled. What was the secret of 
Europe's pull upon the imagination? How was it that the cultivated 
among his own countrymen, while owing everything to Europe, 
still remained essentially Russian? Was there some curious chem- 
ical reaction between the human spirit and the soil in which it was 
rooted? Whether these thoughts kept him awake, or whether he 



meditated thus because he couldn't sleep, he came to Berlin in no 
mood to like the city or its inhabitants and decided in disgust that 
it looked and smelled just like Petersburg. He had a happier glimpse 
of the Rhineland, and in the middle of June found himself in Paris. 

The weather was nasty. There wasn't a soul he knew in the city. 
In the two miserable weeks that he spent there he formed a violently 
hostile opinion of the Parisians and of the French people generally. 
They were polite and venal, solemn and false, and as servile in fact 
as they were noble in appearance. This nation of shopkeepers be- 
lieved that the whole duty of man was to make money and accumu- 
late possessions, all the while crooking the knee to honour, virtue, 
high ideals. The female of the species had every mark of the kept 
woman: greediness, vivacity, vacuity, depravity. The principles 
proclaimed by the great revolution had failed. Liberty — what was 
it but the freedom to do what you pleased? But under the Second 
Empire, you could do what you pleased only if you had a million. 
And since not everybody had a million, there was no liberty. Equal- 
ity too was non-existent. As for fraternity, how was that possible 
among a people with individualism, aggressive and predatory, in 
the blood? Fraternity could only exist where the individual was 
ready to give himself into the hands of the community without 
question or reserve, and where the community was intent on insur- 
ing the personal Hberty of the individual, while guaranteeing his 
security as a member of the group. This was the true socialism, a 
system based not on rational self-interest, but on brotherly love. 
In 1848 Karl Marx had predicted that the bourgeois order, "with 
its classes and class contrasts," would be superseded by "an associa- 
tion in which the free development of the individual is the prelim- 
inary condition for the free development of all." He had expected 
that the change would come about through violent revolution, 
whereas Dostoevsky relied upon Christian altruism. As no such 
spirit was discernable in the West, he wrote, socialism could never 
come about there. When he was thus arguing with himself in public 
— he gave an account of his trip on his return home in a series of 
rambling feuilletons, which he called Winter Notes on Summer 
Impressions — he said only by implication that Russia was a more 
fertile ground for the seed of Christian communism. 

It is likely that he discussed these views with Alexander Herzen, 


the celebrated expatriate, when he crossed the Channel to spend 
a week in London. Strange, how he was drawn to these socialists! 
Herzen found his visitor a naive, somewhat muddle-headed per- 
son, but very likeable, and filled with that faith in the Russian 
people which was a tenet of this radical's own creed. 

London struck Dostoevsky at once as different from the French 
capital. It was on a grander scale. The streets were more crowded, 
the parks more magnificent than anything in Paris, the slums more 
horrible, and there was no effort to conceal or disguise the sores 
of the city. Was this the final answer to the riddle of how man 
should live with his fellows? He went to see the Crystal Palace at 
Sydenham and thought he was in Babylon. The structure filled him 
with horror. Was it for this that man had worked and suffered 
through the centuries — this epitome of soulless materialism, this 
apocalyptic monster of iron and glass? 

One Saturday after midnight he lost his way and found himself 
walking through Whitechapel. The gas flares shone weirdly on the 
sullen faces of men sodden with drink, women with the voices of 
harpies, and ragged waifs. For three days afterwards he was tor- 
mented by the memory of what he had seen. In the Haymarket he 
watched the prostitutes in and around the caf^s, saw girls barely 
in their teens soliciting, and mothers bringing mere children for the 
trade. The poor, the desperate, were jostling one another in the 
darkness into which their brothers had carelessly thrust them. As 
for the ministers of religion, they were plump, dignified gentlemen, 
catering to the wealthy classes, sending missionaries to convert the 
African heathen and ignoring the savages at home. This vast 
agglomeration of men and things seemed to him to be governed 
by an unclean spirit, arrogant and blind. 

Winter Notes on Summer Impressions is a scathing critique of the 
bourgeois order, and by implication a prophecy of its downfall. In 
these pages he dealt exclusively with Paris and London, ignoring 
the remainder of his journey, which had taken him to Italy via 
Switzerland. In Geneva he met Strakhov and the two went to Flo- 
rence, where they spent a leisurely week. They walked into the 
Uffizi and despite Strakhov's protests prompdy walked out again. 
Except for the "Madonna della Sedia," Dostoevsky was bored by the 
canvases. The other monuments of the ancient, splendid city meant 


no more to him. As a traveller, he was interested above all in the 
new faces that he saw about him, the private conflicts that he could 
read in them. He had no eyes for landscape and cared for the 
sights of the town only as a backdrop for the human drama. They 
spent their days walking the streets where the crowd was thickest, 
and in the evening they would sit over a glass of the local red 
wine and talk. They did not go to Venice, and so Dostoevsky had 
no opportunity to drift in a gondola in the arms of a young Vene- 
tian, as he had playfully anticipated when he was planning the 
trip. Nor did they go to Rome. Instead, they recrossed the Alps, 
and he returned home. 

He had gone abroad with that reverence for Europe which was 
common to Russian intellectuals, but, without fully realizing it, 
he had carried with him a complete set of prejudices against the 
more recent phases of Western civilization. The eight or ten weeks 
that he spent in Europe served only to intensify his hostility. He 
came home all but convinced that the people of the West were 
incapable of living together in Christian brotherhood, and were 
doomed to go down in a war of all against all. At the same time 
his faith in his own countrymen had been ^rengthened. These 
convictions, which he retained to the end, he eventually erected 
into a doctrine. The Winter Notes exude a petty venom against 
the French and English which makes it look as though, unwilling 
to consider the beam in the Russian eye, he went all the more 
ferociously about the business of casting the mote out of the for- 
eign eye. In his stories and novels the weaknesses of both the 
Russian soul and the Russian system are manifest. Yet his publicist 
writing exhibits a tyrannical inner check against giving vent to any 
thoroughgoing criticism of the fatherland. 


Once home again, Dostoevsky took up his life where he had 
dropped it. He had reason to be heartened by the turn affairs were 
taking. He had brought back with him material for his travel 
sketches. His House of the Dead was having a great vogue. The 
review was forging bravely ahead. If it held its own for another 
year or two, they would be able to pay off all the debts they had 


incurred in connection with it, and it would become a profitable 
enterprise. True, his editorial duties left small leisure for the kind 
of writing that he most wanted to do. Nevertheless the November 
issue of the magazine carried a story over his signature. It was "An 
Unpleasant Predicament," a coldly satirical account of the disasters 
that ensue when a would-be benign superior condescends to frater- 
nize with his humble subordinates. The story, which is more skilfully 
wrought than most of his minor pieces, is a thrust at the false brand 
of humanitarianism in a day when that virtue was given lip service 

The year 1863 began inauspiciously with the Polish rebellion. 
After some hesitation the general public allowed itself to be over- 
whelmed by a wave of patriotism. Politics was not the strong point 
of Dostoevsky's review, and some months passed before it ran an 
article, from Strakhov*s pen, on the Polish question. The editor 
liked the piece, the censor passed it, and it appeared duly in the 
April issue. And then the blow fell. A jingoistic Moscow paper 
raised a hue and cry against the article as pro-Polish. Strakhov's 
style was so abstruse that it was possible to put this interpretation 
on his words, although nothing was further from his mind than to 
give aid and comfort to Russia's hereditary enemy. The ill-starred 
article was soon the talk of the town, and the matter came to the 
Emperor's ears. *'A11 Moscow is indignant about it," he observed 
one morning to the Minister of the Interior. The latter promptly 
responded that the review had been suppressed. The diplomatic 
lie sealed Vremya's fate. 

Here was a piece of ill luck. The magazine was the innocent 
victim of a misunderstanding. Its suppression was hard on all those 
connected with it and was a disaster for Mikhail. Shortly before the 
crash he had sold his cigarette factory, which had been steadily 
going down hill. Now he had debts amounting to twenty thousand 
roubles and nothing to fall back upon. For Dostoevsky it was the 
old story of defeat, disappointment, endless anxiety. His wife was 
ill, and he was again short of money. The sums that had come to 
him during the past year or two he had somehow been unable to 
hold on to, and for the present he had no prospects. Yet in the 
midst of it all he found himself preparing to go abroad. He bor- 
rowed the money for the trip from the Fund for Needy Authors, 


the loan being secured by the copyright on his books. How could 
he take such a step at such a time? He had his reasons. 

There was his health. His falling sickness was getting worse. 
His memory was failing rapidly, and the depression that followed 
each attack was so severe that he feared he would ultimately be 
driven mad. The Petersburg doctors gave him such contradictory 
advice that he felt he must seek counsel elsewhere — from Ramberg 
in Berlin and Trousseau in Paris. His seizures occurred at least once 
a month and sometimes twice in one week. There was another 
motive for his journey than the need for consulting physicians, 
though it is doubtful if it was a conscious one at the outset. The 
gaming-tables of the German watering-places offered him the chance 
of mending the family fortunes by a rapid stroke of luck. The gam- 
bler in him had long been waiting his chance, and now he leapt at 
it. He reached Berlin about the middle of August, and from there 
went straight to Wiesbaden, one of the four towns where roulette 
flourished under the aegis of the law. 

Here he succumbed to the fever that was to burn in him for 
years. Watching the men and women at the tables, he discovered 
the secret of winning. It was very simple. Fate was in his grip. He 
worked out a system. The thing was to follow it faithfully and keep 
cool whatever turn luck took. He had two difficulties: he couldn't 
stick to his system: he couldn't keep cool. He applied his system, 
won over ten thousand francs, and locked them up, determined 
to leave town the next morning without looking into the casino 
again. The next morning he was back at the tables. He failed to 
follow his system, lost most of his winnings, returned again in the 
evening, followed his system, won three thousand francs, and was 
able to leave Wiesbaden the next day with five thousand francs in 

If, in spite of the fact that he believed in his system and that he 
had money in his pocket to back his belief, he left the place for 
Paris after four days, it was because he was obeying another, 
stronger pull. He was off to keep his rendezvous with Polina. 


Dostoevsky may have come to know Apollinariya Prokofyevna 
Suslova — Polina or Polya to her friends — the second year after 


his return to Petersburg. She contributed a story to the September 
issue of Vremya for 1861, and indeed her literary ambitions may 
have brought them together. He soon began to visit the house, 
where he met her younger sister, Nadezhda, with whom he became 
very friendly. Both sisters, though daughters of a former serf, were 
well educated, and exemplified the "emancipated woman" who 
had emerged in the early sixties, that era of feminism. They be- 
longed to the nihilist generation which at once repelled and fasci- 
nated him. Nadezhda, the first Russian member of her sex to become 
a physician, was of the rigoristic, puritanic type, Polina, under the 
composed, matter-of-fact exterior that was the fashion, concealed 
an emotional instability that was to work havoc with her life. Hers 
was a fiery nature, impetuous, intransigent, impatient of re- 
straint, avid of experience, and not without a streak of cruelty. 
When Dostoevsky met her she was an extremely attractive girl in 
her early twenties. 

They were friends. They were lovers. It is said that she took the 
initiative in declaring herself. Both by nature and conviction she was 
careless, in fact scornful, of the proprieties, and she had no in- 
hibitions regarding physical intimacy. It was her first affair, and 
she took it seriously. Yet the celebrity may have meant to her more 
than the man. He — at forty — was thrilled to find this girl half his 
age in love with him, but he failed to live up to her idea of what a 
passionate relationship should be. Either because he showed a dis- 
concerting lack of loverly abandon or because she felt humiliated 
by not coming first with him, indeed by being treated as a conveni- 
ence, she repeatedly spoke of breaking with him. Many years later 
she was able to tell her husband that she had not been able to for- 
give Dostoevsky his unwillingness to divorce his wife on her account. 
As a matter of fact, to protect Marya Dmitrievna's peace of mind he 
went to great lengths to hide his liason from her, and he succeeded. 

In the spring of 1863 Polina went to Paris, as so many of her 
compatriots did, to breathe the free air of the West, to study, to 
live. Perhaps at moments the trip seemed to her to be in the nature 
of a flight from her entanglement with Dostoevsky. Nevertheless, 
it was understood that he would join her in Paris and that together 
they would go to Italy. His unfaithfulness to Marya Dmitrievna 


was no secret to Mikhail, and what is more, his wife's sister knew 
of it and apparently did not condemn him. 

He reached the French capital on August 26, 1863, and his 
note announcing his arrival was answered by a letter from Polina 
telling him that he had come *'a bit late." He used to tell her that 
she would be slow to surrender: he was wrong. She had given herself 
to another "at the first call, without a struggle, without assurance, 
almost without hope of being loved in return." This other was a 
handsome young Spaniard — a medical student — with whom she 
had plunged into an affair on her arrival in Paris. To this new lover 
she meant no more than a week's pastime, and by the time Dosto- 
evsky came it was fairly clear to her that her Spaniard was through 
with her, but that could not lessen her passion. There was nothing 
to do but tell Dostoevsky how she felt. She had feared his coming, 
while half desiring it. She pitied him and yet anticipated the pain she 
was to give him with half -acknowledged malice. 

Before her letter had time to reach him, he came straight to her 
room, barely recovered from the fatigues of his journey and from 
the slight attack that he had had en route. What then passed be- 
tween them is retailed in her diary. 

She was taken aback: *T thought you wouldn't come, after my 

"What letter?" he asked. 

"Telling you not to come." 


"Because you are too late." 

His head sank: "Polya," he said after a short pause. "I must know 
everything. Let's go somewhere. Tell me everything or it will kill 

They left the room and got into a cab. They did not look at each 
other. He clung to her hand, now and then squeezing it convul- 
sively. "Don't, don't," she tried to soothe him. "I am here." He did 
not open his lips except to shout to the driver in a voice of despair: 
"Vite, vite!" 

When they were alone in his room he fell at her feet, and clasping 
her knees burst out crying. 

"I have lost you. I knew it." 

As soon as he could master himself, he began to question her. 


The other man — was he young, was he handsome, was he clever? 
Had she given herself to him? The last query roused her: it wasn't 
right, she said, to ask such questions. 

"I don't know," said he, "what's right and what's wrong." 

As she went on talking it became clear that she was terribly in 
love with a man who no longer loved her. Dostoevsky clutched 
his head. Only two weeks ago she had been writing that she was 
ardently in love with him. His worst fears were realized. She was 
bound to turn to another. She had only fallen in love with him by 
mistake, because her heart was roomy. But this other — it was a purely 
physical attraction. There might be hope for him still. 

He was resigned now, and quiet. Better to have had the gift of 
her love for a while than never to have known it at all. He told her 
so. They must remain friends. They had planned to travel in Italy 
as lovers. Why not let him take her there, anyhow? They would be 
as brother and sister. 

Oh, yes, she could believe in his ability to maintain such a rela- 
tion! He would have his novel to occupy him. She spoke thus, 
perhaps not because he had given her reason to believe him cold, 
but because she was somewhat piqued by the rapidity with which 
he had accepted the new state of afifairs. Her words hurt him. Didn't 
she know how hard it would be for him to get over this? 

When they separated, she promised to come and see him the 
next day. She felt better after having spoken to him. He understood 

The following day Polina received news that her Spaniard had 
typhus and could not be seen. Dostoevsky tried to hearten her. 
Two mornings later he was roused from sleep by a knock at his 
door. It was Polina, red-eyed and white-faced, come to ask him to 
visit her as soon as possible. Then she left. 

The previous day she had run into her supposedly stricken lover 
on the street in the best of health. It was all over. She had locked 
herself in her room and stayed awake all night, crying. She had made 
up her mind to kill her deceiver. But first she went to ask I>ostoevsky 
to come to see her. She dared not remain with him, for she hoped 
against hope that her faithless lover would yet come to make 

He did not, and in fact ignored her ever afterwards. Dostoevsky 


was there promptly. He listened to the story, sympathized, dis- 
missed the whole affair as an ugly accident, and told her to give up 
all thought of avenging herself — he had previously said that on such 
creatures one used insect powder. 

Dostoevsky now found himself in a situation all too much like 
that which preceded his marriage. Again he was the displaced 
lover comforting the woman he had lost to a younger man. Polina 
continued to confide in him fully and lean on his advice. Consumed 
with the fury of a woman scorned, she seemed to have no thought 
for him. Would she or would she not join him in his trip south? 
She did not keep him long in suspense. She had the courage to tear 
herself away from Paris and the cruelty to let him take her to Italy. 
He was relieved to shake from his heels the dust of this magnificent, 
abominable city, where the only things one didn't tire of were the 
fruit and the wine; but the whole adventure was madness. He was 
going off on an ambiguous, expensive journey as though he were 
free of worry about either health or money, as though there were 
no brother in desperate straits, no sick wife, no troublesome step- 
son to consider. 


The trip thrilled and exhausted him with the fever of balked 
sensuality. Having just emerged from a passionate affair and plainly 
still burning with the agony of it, Polina was doubly desirable. If 
he had gone out of his way to contrive a situation abounding, for a 
man of his make-up, both in subtle torment and in that perverse 
pleasure which he sucked out of pain, he could not have done 
better. She had consented to become his travelling companion, as 
had originally been planned: might he not yet succeed in persuading 
her to become his mistress once more? Her behaviour was not such 
as to make him despair, but, on the other hand, she said nothing 
to give him hope. As a matter of fact, she was determined not to 
return to his arms. 

They were both unhappy, but they pretended to each other and 
themselves that they were off on a lark, and his tension and anxiety 
expressed itself in an exaggerated gaiety. They travelled via Ger- 
many and when, on September 5, they reached Baden-Baden, they 
engaged two connecting rooms. They had tea in her room — it was 


about ten o'clock in the evening — and then, feeling tired, she slipped 
out of her shoes, lay down, dressed, on the bed, and asked him to 
pull his chair closer. She took his hand and held it in hers. He said 
he liked sitting that way. She told him she had been harsh with 
him in Paris and had seemed to be thinking only of herself, but 
indeed, she had been thinking of him, too. Did she guess what was 
going on within him? Suddenly he got up, stumbled over her shoes, 
and sat down again. He explained that he had wanted to close the 
window, but, no, he confessed that what he had really wanted was 
to kiss her foot. She was embarrassed, almost frightened, and tucked 
her feet in, but invited him to stay on. He stared at her till she hid 
her face in the pillow. Finally she dismissed him, saying that she 
wanted to go to sleep. He lingered on, then kissed her good night, 
all too warmly, and went out with a smile, but returned, ostensiblv 
to close the widow, and advised her to get undressed. She said 
she would do so as soon as he left. He did not close his door until, 
under a flimsy pretext, he had come back once more. 

The next day he apologized profusely for his unbrotherly be- 
haviour, saying that he had been drunk, but she passed the matter 
over in a manner that left him as uncertain as ever where he stood. 
Didn't he have a gambler's chance of winning her? His attention 
during their Baden stay was divided between this hazard and the 
gaming-tables. Perhaps, under the circumstances, his gambling was 
in the nature of a substitute for another form of excitement. He 
spoke of his gambling-fever as a "damned revolt of the passions." 

He made no progress with the lady, and he lost practically 
everything at roulette. In his first quarter of an hour at the Baden 
tables he won six hundred francs; his Wiesbaden "system" was 
working. But he could not stick to it, and disaster followed. How 
could he keep away from the tables? He needed money for Mikhail, 
for his wife, for his literary future, and for the immediate expenses 
of the trip. Hadn't he gone abroad for no other purpose, as he wrote 
to Mikhail, than "to save you all?" Far from playing the saviour, 
he was reduced to begging for help. He had to write to Mikhail 
to remit what he had sent him from the Wiesbaden winnings for 
safe-keeping, and to his wife to return part of the money he had sent 
her. The thought that this might cause her inconvenience, ill and 
needy as she was, only added to his torments: after a fashion, he 



loved her. Meanwhile, in the hope of recovering something, he took 
as many as he dared of his last francs, won a considerable sum 
with them, staked it all on one throw, and lost the whole. There was 
nothing for it but to leave Baden-Baden at once. At Geneva he 
pawned his watch and Polina her ring. This enabled them to go on 
to Turin, where the remittances from home were to reach him. He 
lived in daily terror that the hotel bill would be presented and he 
would not be able to meet it — the scandal of the situation would 
be terrible. As soon as the money reached them they made for 
Rome, and from there went on to Naples. There they ran into the 
Herzens' whom Dostoevsky perplexed by introducing Polina vaguely 
as a relative, while flaunting his intimacy with her. 

She took pleasure in provoking him, but now and then repented 
her cruelty. There was a day in Turin when she was affectionate 
towards him. He responded so eagerly that she redoubled her 
tenderness and ended by crying on his bosom. He did not know 
what to make of her. Sometimes her resistance seemed mere coy- 
ness. In allowing certain intimacies without yielding to him, was 
she leaning toward surrender or was she denying his manhood? Was 
she making him the scapegoat for her Spaniard, or was she avenging 
herself on him for his own sins against her in the past? Was it just 
heartless coquetry? When, one day, he told her that she must not 
keep a man cooling his heels too long or he would bolt, she smiled. 
Was she still thinking of "the Peninsula," as he called her Salvador? 
She denied this, but only with her lips. 

There must have been moments when his passion for her was 
mixed with intense hatred. Occasionally he would allow himself 
to taunt her. One night in Rome he did so with a peculiarly offen- 
sive gaiety. He did not try to keep it up. He was having a bad time 
of it, he confessed. Everything presented itself as an onerous duty, 
a tiresome lesson to be learned. At least he was trying to divert her. 
She was touched, and threw her arms around his neck. But he was 
not deceived and told her sadly that she was on her way to Spain 
Abruptly he began to joke again, and when he left her — it was 
one in the morning and she was in bed undressed — observed that it 
was humiliating to have to leave her thus: "Russians." he concluded 
with a military flourish, "never retreat." And he retired. 

Polina, being subject to the literary itch, used this phase of her 


relations with Dostoevsky as material for a story. It is the kind of 
fiction that is only a very thinly veiled transcript of truth. The 
hero who plays Dostoevsky's part in this narrative relieves the 
ennui of the lady in the case by relating to her his adventures with 
a prostitute. When this form of entertainment disgusts her, he 
ventures that such low pleasures serve only to heighten the trans- 
ports of exalted love. So closely does the story follow the record 
of the affair in her diary that although this incident does not figure 
there, it is highly improbable that she invented it. If the conversa- 
tion did indeed take place, he may have talked as much to vex as 
to amuse. 

Toward the end, Polina's story moves rapidly. The heroine dis- 
covers more things to dislike in her companion, their relations be- 
come intolerable, and she drowns herself. Actually, the end of the 
trip on which the lady went with Dostoevsky was less dramatic. 
From Naples they retraced their steps to Turin, where he must 
have received money from Russia — he had written Strakhov that 
when he reached Turin again he would be flat. There they sepa- 
rated peacefully enough, she going back to Paris, he making his 
way home. They had been together a little less than two months. 
He stopped in Homburg sufficiently long to lose everything he had 
at the gaming-tables, and having exhausted all other resources, was 
forced to appeal to Polina. She raised a small sum to send him, even 
pawning her watch, rather relieved that she could thus pay off some 
of the money he had spent on her. She could not bear to feel obli- 
gated to this man whom she had once idolized, but whom she was 
now beginning to hate. 


IT WAS October before Dostoevsky was home again. He found 
himself in a cheerless situation. Marya Dmitrievna, who was 
staying in Vladimir, had grown much worse. She could not brave 
a Petersburg winter, so he took her to Moscow and stayed there 
with her. It must have been clear to him that her end was coming, 
and pity, that had been potent in drawing him to her at first, kept 
him beside her at the last. His own health was deplorable: either 
he had not profited by the advice of the European physicians or, in 
the stress of his affair with Polina, he had not consulted them at all. 
The change of air and scene had wrought an improvement, but it 
was short-lived. And then, although it was understood that Mikhail 
would be allowed to resume the magazine under another title, 
permission was slow in coming and the uncertainty was harassing. The 
sole comfort was a legacy of three thousand roubles from Uncle 
Kumanin, which Dostoevsky received in November and which 
meant a temporary surcease of money worries. 

Finally, the authorities relented, and in 1864 Epokha (The Epoch), 
as the new review was called, materialized. It was started under 
the most unfavourable auspices and failed to achieve the success of 
its predecessor. To begin with, the permit came so tardily that the 
January issue appeared only late in March, when the subscription 
season was over. Even the established reviews were doing poorly, 
the reading public being in an apathetic mood. The first issue had 
some claim to distinction, containing as it did a story by Turgenev 
and the initial instalment of a remarkable contribution by Dosto- 
evsky: "Notes from the Underground." But the make-up of the 
new magazine was shabby and the contents of the subsequent num- 
bers singularly flat. This was partly due to the hostility of the 
censors, who mutilated the contributions which they did not kill. 
Mikhail had little cash to invest in the enterprise and, as he was far 



from well, could not bring to the business the energy and shrewdness 
it demanded. To crown it all, Dostoevsky, who was expected to 
edit Epokha, could not be of much help, since he was absent from 
Petersburg most of the time and absorbed in his private affairs. 

It became plainer to him every day that Masha's state was hope- 
less. Like his mother, and like several creatures of his imagination, 
she was the victim of consumption. She was virtually wasting 
away, now lamenting her end, now making wild plans for years 
she was never to see. Her irritability grew extreme, and at times 
her mind was unsettled. She had a mania for winding up clocks 
until the springs broke. She would imagine that the sick-room was 
full of devils — the doctor had to chase them out of the window 
with his handkerchief. For days, for weeks, for months, Dostoevsky 
had no respite from this misery. 

His one refuge was the house of his sister Vera, the only mem- 
ber of the family in Moscow whom he cared to see. Nothing could 
have been in sharper contrast to the sick-chamber than this happy 
household, bubbling with the activities of eight children, the young- 
est an infant in arms, the eldest, Sonia, a girl of eighteen. Dosto- 
evsky grew quite fond of his brother-in-law, the excellent Dr. Ivanov, 
who was treating Masha, admired the little ones, and made a favour- 
ite of Sonia. He had noticed her on his previous visits to Moscow, 
but it was only now, on looking at her closely, that he recognised 
what a whole-hearted, exquisite creature she was. 

But for all the comfort that Vera and her family afforded him, 
he felt that his burden was more than he could bear. Masha was 
dying. He kept having attacks and, in addition, was again suffer- 
ing from piles. What with his debts and the expenses of his wife's 
illness, the legacy was soon gone, and when the spring thaws came, 
he had to go on wearing his heavy goloshes and his winter over- 
coat for want of the price of seasonable apparel. By nightfall his 
nerves were in tatters, and he would sit down to his desk stale and 
sick. He had all kinds of tempting ideas for articles, but he couldn't 
manage to write one of them. And the thought that he was useless 
to the magazine at this critical time — the first issues were decisive — 
tormented him. At least he was able to go on somehow with that 
queer, savage story, *'Notes from the Underground." It was slow 
work at best, and it was bound to suffer a dismal interruption. He 


was labouring over the brutal details of the story to the sound his 
wife made in the next room over the business of dying. He wrote 
to Mikhail that he had never been in a worse state. The Tver 
lodgings, the barracks, the prison, the cell in the fortress — these 
were shadows: only his present hell was real. 

Before going abroad, Dostoevsky had installed a tutor in his 
Petersburg rooms to take charge of his stepson, and the two were 
still living there. Pasha, who was now in his teens, already showed 
signs of being a bad egg. Toward the end, Dostoevsky sent for 
him, but the impossible boy was no consolation to his mother. In 
fact, she showed him the door, saying she would summon him 
when she felt that she was dying. When that event seemed immi- 
nent, Dostoevsky wrote Mikhail to be sure to ship the boy to 
Moscow for the funeral and get him a black suit, cheap. 

Finally the fretting and the coughing were over, and even the 
solemn bustle of the death-chamber hushed. It was the evening of 
April 15. The following day Dostoevsky snatched time from the 
unfinished "Notes from the Underground" and found composure 
of spirit to make a long entry in the small brown leather notebook 
in which he recorded expenses and jotted down passing thoughts. 

"Masha lies on the table,"* he wrote. Will he ever see her again? 
Can one truly love another as oneself? Christ alone was capable 
of obeying this commandment. His example had made it plain 
that personality at its highest means nothing but the readiness to 
surrender one's ego to each and everyone, with the selflessness of 
perfect love. Such love is the very law of man's ideal, and yet it 
runs counter to human nature, and will only be realized when that 
nature is transcended, when the mould of mere humanity is broken, 
for the nature of God is in direct opposition to the nature of man. 
The atheists are wrong when they argue against Christianity on 
the grounds that men still suffer and that there is no brotherhood 
among them. The Christian ideal cannot obtain on earth, where 
man is in a state of transition. He is on the way to the attainment of 
a divine state, which is the end and aim of all development. This 
new being, so different from the old Adam that he may not even 
bear the name of man, will live in a timeless, but otherwise un- 
imaginable paradise. All that is certain concerning these godly crea- 
* Before placing the body in a coffin it was customary to lay it on a table. 


tures is that they "will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 
but live as the angels of God." They will not require the selfish, 
separate union between man and woman; each, while preserving 
his identity and differing froni others — for in my Father's house 
are many mansions — will merge with all in the divine synthesis. 
The family is sacred, because only through the succession of gen- 
erations can the spiritual goal be attained, and, too, it is in children 
as well as in the memory of one's friends that one finds personal 
immortality. But in the name of the ultimate ideal, the family, 
with its exclusive ties, must be discarded. No, in heaven there will 
be no marrying nor giving in marriage. But in the meantime, one 
who fails — as he and Masha had failed, as man inevitably failed 
— to sacrifice the self lovingly for another's sake must know that 
he has sinned and suffer accordingly. Yet what joy in the approaches, 
however limited and uncertain, to the goal! Such are the contra- 
dictory elements in the earthly equilibrium. He concluded with an 
outburst against materialism, that unripe fruit of paltry knowledge, 
that principle of death, as opposed to the teaching of true philos- 
ophy, which meant God and life, abundant and endless. 

There are few passages in Dostoevsky's notebooks more illumi- 
nating than these elliptical and incoherent jottings, made on the 
impulse of the moment, presumably for no eye but his own, to 
satisfy some inner need for self-clarification. He had once asserted 
that, if the choice must be made, he would stand with Christ rather 
than with truth. It is not surprising to find him now standing with 
Christ against human nature, but he oversteps the bounds of 
orthodoxy when he insists that the Christian ideal can only be 
realized v^'hen man shall be man no longer, but shall have become 
as the angels of heaven. What could this mean but that he was 
bidding Utopia farewell, and further, that in setting up Christ as 
the pattern of humankind, he was setting before himself an ideal 
he knew to be poles removed from his own native impulses? The 
family must ultimately be transcended. He had married; nay, more, 
he had committed adultery. He might do both again. He looked for- 
ward to a state in which man should live free from the lusts of the 
flesh. He knew himself hopelessly driven by them. The clearest 
point in these confused reflections is Dostoevsky's will to keep the 
integrity of each individual, while all attain to a selfless communion. 



He was writing in the detached, reflective strain of a somewhat 
fuzzy-minded Christian philosopher, meditating on things earthly 
and paradisal, rather than in the tone of a bereaved husband with 
the death-rattle still in his ears. That at such times he should 
reflect on the limitations of earthly love points to the tragic flaw 
in the relation to which death had put a period. If he felt re- 
morse for sin, it was that against Christ, rather than that against 
his late wife. If he spoke of heaven, he seems not to have been 
concerned with his meeting Masha there, and he was content with 
such shabby immortality for her as was afforded by his remem- 
brance of her and the continued existence of her good-for-nothing 
son. It was as if he had long since accustomed himself to the idea 
of being without her. As far as possible he had provided for her 
physical needs and cared for her son, yet she seems to have faded 
out of the picture long before her end. He had behaved like an 
unattached man even in the Petersburg days when they were living 
together. She bore him no children. Hard words were frequently 
exchanged — it is said that in her rages she did not hesitate to 
throw up to him the fact that he had been a jailbird. He seems not 
to have kept their incompatibility a secret from his intimates, though 
only one revealing reference to the subject has been preserved. It 
occurs in a letter to Wrangel. Nearly a year after his wife's death 
Dostoevsky was writing to the man who had witnessed his frantic 
wooing: "Oh, my friend, she loved me boundlessly. I, too, loved 
her without measure, but we did not live happily together. I shall 
tell you everything when we see each other. Now I shall only say 
that in spite of the fact that we were positively unhappy together 
(because of her strange, suspicious, and morbidly fantastic charac- 
ter), we couldn't stop loving each other. In fact, the more unhappy 
we were, the stronger our attachment grew." 

One imagines their life together to have been a succession of 
stormy quarrels and equally stormy reconciliations. This marriage 
appears to have been presided over by a passion that now took the 
aspect of love and now that of hatred. Such a relationship is all the 
more plausible since we find Dostoevsky's imagination playing per- 
I^tually 3nd illuminatingly upon the ambivalence of emotion. More- 
over, this love that feeds upon mutual unhappiness fits into the 


picture of a man who had a curious faculty for turning situations 
against himself, for sucking pleasure out of pain. That he could 
love his wife sincerely while at the same time being passionately 
attached to another is intelligible enough. He had, as he had said 
of Polina Suslova, and as could be said of many of his characters, 
"a wide heart." When, in his novels, he drew one such roomy- 
hearted figure after the other, he may well have been creating them 
in his own image. 

The character of Dostoevsky's first wife was assailed by his 
daughter Lubov (Aimee), the child of his second marriage. In her 
life of her father she makes out her mother's predecessor to have 
been a deceitful, dissolute woman who, on the very eve of her 
wedding, spent the night with a lover, and not only made a cuckold 
of Dostoevsky afterwards, with the same insignificant youth, but 
taunted her husband with it later. This version of the matter, like 
so much else in the book, is untrustworthy. It is barely possible, 
however, that in this case the biographer was embroidering, in her 
prejudiced and sensational manner, upon fact. Perhaps Marya 
resembled her husband in this — that she was capable of continuing 
to love the one to whom she was unfaithful. In any event, his daugh- 
ter's malevolent words are contradicted by his own remark in the 
letter to Wrangel quoted above: "She was the most honest, the 
most noble-minded and generous-hearted woman that I have ever 
known in my life." Nearly ten years after her death, when he was 
married a second time, and happily, he described her to a new-found 
friend, in whom he discovered a resemblance to her, as "a woman 
with the loftiest, most rapturous soul ... an idealist in the fullest 
sense of the word, yes, and at the same time as pure and simple- 
hearted as a child." This must be the last word on the subject. 


Losing no time, the widower returned to Petersburg and to his 
editorial work. He was back in his old apartment with Pasha — 
he had sworn to his wife on her deathbed that he would never 
abandon the boy. His first disagreeable duty was to evict the tutor 
who, it transpired, had maltreated and starved his pupil, had 
debauched the fifteen-year-old boy by bringing women from the 


street into the flat, and ended by carrying off a pair of his em- 
ployer's sheets. 

A little older, a little lonelier, Dostoevsky resumed his former 
way of life. His immediate task was to complete "Notes from the 
Underground." This he did, and the final instalment appeared in 
the April issue of the magazine which came off the press in June. 
The financial situation was not as acute as usual. Before leaving 
Moscow, he had sent his brother explicit instructions as to the 
proper means of squeezing some money out of their godmother, 
and thanks to his strategy, Mikhail had secured ten thousand 
roubles from Aunt Kumanina. Furthermore, he had borrowed six 
thousand roubles from Dr. Ivanov. The sum was sufficient to allow 
Mikhail to set up a printing establishment as a prop for the review. 
There were heavy odds against them, but it looked as though, if 
they worked hard, they might yet put Epokha on its legs. 

And then Fate struck again. Mikhail took to his bed. His illness 
was of short duration. On July 10, a little less than three months 
after burying his wife, Dostoevsky stood beside the lifeless body of 
his brother. 

*T loved my brother infinitely," he wrote to Wrangel, and to 
Andrey, a fortnight after the blow had fallen: "He loved me 
more than anyone in the world, more than his wife and children, 
whom he adored." Dostoevsky was using the hyperbole of be- 
reavement. In his grief he forgot that during his four years of 
prison Mikhail had let prudence get the better of affection and 
sent him not a single word, and that there had been a sad scarcity 
of both letters and remittances during the years of exile. There 
had been occasions when he had grave doubts of Mikhail's devo- 
tion. But no matter. Mikhail had shared his earliest memories. 
They had grown up together in the same house. For years they 
had attended the same school. They had lived together. They had 
worked together. With Mikhail gone, to whom could he confide 
his anxieties and disillusionments, his hopes and ambitions? Death 
had never trod so close to him. He had lost a part of himself. 

But grieving was a luxury for which he had no leisure. Mikhail's 
estate consisted of three hundred roubles which went to cover the 
funeral expenses. In spite of the money sunk in it, the liabilities 
of the magazine, in the shape of debts that Mikhail had incurred 


to run it, far exceeded its assets, so that the family was left with- 
out visible means of support. The widow and her children, all of 
them minors, gathered around Uncle Fyodor, their sole hope, and 
wept. He shouldered the responsibility. 

Two courses were open to him. He could abandon the review 
to its creditors, take the widow and the four orphans — one of the 
children had died that year of scarlet fever — into his own house- 
hold, and slave at his pen to support them all, his stepson, and 
himself, not to mention his dead brother's mistress and her child. 
This would leave the blot of bankruptcy on Mikhail's memory — an 
intolerable thought. Although he was himself an incurable borrower, 
indebtedness always impressed him with a sense of more than 
merely legal obligation and seemed to him somehow to involve the 
very personality of the debtor. The other possibility was to continue 
with the magazine, in the hope of ultimately paying its debts and 
turning it over to the family as soon as it was a profitable enterprise. 
After taking counsel with himself and with all concerned, he chose 
the second course — to his sorrow. 

The deceased had been able to run the review partly on credit. 
Dostoevsky needed cash. Perhaps Andrey would lend him some- 
thing, at ten per cent interest. But the little brother was not a 
prey to generous impulses. There was yet another hope: Aunt 
Kumanina. He had never yet asked anything of her. He would 
not be asking for himself now — it was to save Mikhail's stricken 
family that he would swallow his pride. When, a few months 
previously, he had advised his brother how to get around the diffi- 
cult old lady, he had mapped out a detailed plan of action: there 
must be no preliminary skirmishing, a bold attack, thus: "You 
have a fortune, ten thousand roubles will not ruin you. If you do 
not come to the rescue, your godson and nephew, and his helpless 
babes, will be lost! You have one foot in the grave — how will you 
appear before Christ, and before your late sister?" One must work 
on her conscience, on her piety, on her family feeling; she would 
be torn between fear for her money and the dread of taking a sin 
on her soul; she would wave her hands, she would cluck, she 
would groan; she would yield. The strategy had worked once, 
and he may have used it this time. As he sat in the drawing-room 
of the sprawling Moscow house that he had known since child- 


hood, confronting the quaking, whimsical old woman, was he 
pierced by the injustice of it all— that he, with his health broken, 
his work still to do, a mounting load of responsibilities on his 
shoulders, should be at the mercy of this foolish, useless relic, 
squatting on her moneybags? 

Whatever he may have done or thought, he returned to Peters- 
burg with ten thousand roubles from good old Aunt Kumanina. 
The sum. like the similar amount Mikhail had received from her, 
was in the nature of a loan, which was never repaid and which 
was reckoned as his share of his inheritance from her. With this 
he could make a start. After some casting about, he found a figure- 
head to act as nominal editor, since, as an ex-convict, he could 
not serve in that capacity, and so set Epokha on its way again. 
Legally he had no share in the enterprise, the review being the 
property of Mikhail's heirs. 

He wanted to build up a journal of opinion, a political organ, 
sensitive to the trend of the times. In Vremya he had made some 
attempt to reconcile the liberal and conservative points of view. 
In Epokha he broke with the Westerners and took a definitely 
conservative and Slavophil stand. The recent Polish rebellion had 
started reaction in high places and among the public as well. The 
incipient revolutionary movement suffered a setback, but the fer- 
ment remained at work. Dostoevsky was out to give battle to "the 
nihilists,'' with their crude materialism, their harsh, cramping, 
"Quakerish" attitude. They asked art (when not rejecting it alto- 
gether) to limit itself to copying the barren fact. They denied all the 
poetry and colour and music of life, forgetting that music was the 
language of things so profound that the mind had not yet grasped 
them. Worse: theirs was a way of blind violence. As though the 
blood and thunder of revolution were not always futile! Freedom 
was not something to be imposed. A nation would take as much 
as it was capable of enduring, for freedom was a burden. These 
socialists wanted world citizens, all alike. What a bore! They fancied 
that if you altered economic conditions, you would have a new 
human being to deal with, one who would have no need of God or 
of his own hearthstone. Western poppycock! Nothing can be 
changed until the soul of man is changed. The brotherhood of man 


— here spoke the tenacious Christian socialism of his youth — will 

be achieved only by love. 

One didn^t use plain words like socialism and revolution in the 
public prints. Dostoevsky confided these reflections to his private 
journal and his letters. He also tried to have them covertly set 
forth in Epokha. He regarded the review as a weapon with which 
to club the radicals. They returned the blows with interest. Epoklia 
got decidely the worst of it. Its opponents were lustier and cleverer. 
The adversary in Dostoevsky's eyes was Sovremennik, which was 
as aggressive as ever, although it had lost the captaincy of Cherny- 
shevsky, who was by now serving his term as a political convict in 
Siberia. Dostoevsky saw the long arm of that powerful review in 
every mishap that befell his own. 

All during the autumn and winter he was in continuous fever. 
He haggled with the printer, he ran to the censor, he placated sub- 
scribers, he begged for contributions, he edited manuscripts, he 
read proof, he borrowed money, he paid some of the bills, he 
borrowed more money. By the end of 1864, he had all but suc- 
ceeded in making up for the delay of the earlier issues. He did it 
by bringing out two numbers every month, but he had to sacrifice 
the quality of his material. He had high editorial standards, but 
he had to print what he could get, which wasn't very good. One 
of his best contributors, Grigoryev, had died shortly after Mikhail 
did. The turn of the year brought no change in the magazine's for- 
tunes. The subscribers numbered only thirteen hundred, as con- 
trasted with Vremyas four thousand. He slaved twelve, thirteen, 
nineteen hours a day, but he could only work intermittently. He 
made promises. He couldn't keep them. He tore his hair over his 
mistakes. He committed them again. He worked furiously, but all 
he produced was confusion. He brought out one issue. He brought 
out another. And then the cash box was empty. Not a copeck with 
which to pay the paper-manufacturer, the printer, the contributors. 
He made a few feeble efforts to save the lost cause and then sur- 
rendered. Epokha was done for. 


Dostoevsky's work on Epokha had been chiefly editorial. In ail 
he contributed to the magazine a grotesque skit, "Crocodile," in 



which contemporaries saw some thrust at Chernyshevsky, and 
*'Notes from the Underground." The personal element had been 
absent from The House of the Dead. In "Notes from the Under- 
ground" it returned with a vengeance. One is back again in the con- 
fessional. In fact, the original title of the story seems to have been 
"A Confession." But the man to whom one listens does not merely 
beat his breast. He sticks out his tongue, he argues, he spits, he 
struts, as his disquieting, irritating, absorbing soliloquy unfolds. 

This creature of the underground — one has encountered him in 
Dostoevsky's pages before, if under different circumstances and 
in a different guise. A homeless child, early humiliated by the rela- 
tives upon whom he is dependent, he is repulsed by his more 
fortunate schoolfellows. One suspects that in describing the boy's 
hatred for his coarse, stupid companions, and his exacting demands 
upon his- sole friend, Dostoevsky was to some extent recording his 
own experiences at the engineering school. Reduced to a proud 
solitude that is increasingly difficult for him to bear, the boy be- - 
comes a daydreamer, a lotus-eater, a victim of his own fantasies, 
like so many characters of the early stories. But while those were 
gentle anaemic souls, the undergroundling is a creature full of gall 
and venom. His imaginings make up for the meanness, the gloom, 
the savagery of his actual life, and allow him to go on squatting 
in the mud undisturbed. After a stretch of dreaming in which he 
poses as the mighty hero serving the cause of ''the good and the 
beautiful," he plunges all the more greedily into the nastiness of 
petty, furtive, shameful debauchery. 

As the years go monotonously by, this opiate all but loses its 
potency for him. On the other hand, he remains an unintegrated 
personality, torn by the conflict of opposed tendencies, unable to 
give himself wholly to one emotion or the other, agonized by the 
helpless inconsistencies of his own character. "I did not know," 
he says, "how to become anything: spiteful or kind, a rascal or an 
honest man, a hero or an insect." Thin-skinned in the extreme, 
he alternates between a sick sense of his own shortcomings and a 
complete arrogance toward the rest of the world. He craves the 
approval of the {leople he despises. A morbid self-esteem exposes 
\\\m to constant fear of humiliation, yet he courts the thing he fears. 
Incapable of action, he insists that it is the habit of reflection, his 


overdeveloped intellect, that arrests his impulses. Having thus ex- 
cused himself to himself, he withdraws into a corner, nurses his 
wounds and sulks. His humiliation, his injuries, his imagined re- 
venge, his very impotence, becomes a source of perverse pleasure, 
a poisonous food for his starved ego. 

The undergroundling reveals himself completely in his attempt 
to emerge from his den and participate in normal life. In a moment 
of abysmal loneliness he forces himself upon a group of former 
schoolmates, knowing that he is not wanted, and joins in a farewell 
dinner tendered to a man whom he abominates. Things go from 
bad to worse. His companions wipe the floor with him but he sticks 
to them, and when they all go off to a brothel he borrows money 
from one of them and follows them. Waking in the small hours, he 
proceeds to paint for his bedfellow a fearful picture of the future 
that awaits her, contrasting it with the happiness she has forfeited 
by leading a life of shame. His eloquence brings a lump into his 
own throat But he understands that in talking thus he is enjoying 
the display of his own rhetoric and, what is more fundamental, he 
is making up for the mortification he had suffered by outraging 
the girl's soul after having outraged her body. He reduces her to 
contrite tears and, having impressed her with his inner nobility, 
leaves her, feeling that he is a hero to this poor bawd, if to no one 
else. Out of gratitude, perhaps, he invites her to his lodgings. 

The next few days he alternates between magnanimous, senti- 
mental dreams in which she eventually becomes his adoring wife, 
and fear of what will happen should she accept his invitation to 
come to him in his shabby rooms. Indeed, when she finally does 
turn up one evening and surprises him in the midst of a humiliating 
scene with his servant, he is so enraged at her having caught him 
thus that he tells her that during their night together he had merely 
been making game of her. She, feeling that he is not so much vicious 
as wretched, is swept toward him, crushed though she is, on a wave 
of pitying love. Even as he responds to her embrace he is stabbed 
by the realization that the tables have been turned and that she is 
the heroine of the situation, while he has become the object of her 
compassion — that she had love to give, while he had nothing. His 
envy of her whipping up his spite, his hatred kindling a sudden 
passionate desire for her, he commits the final outrage: he deliber- 


ately turns her gesture of pure affection into a prelude to an act of 
lust such as is the routine of her trade, and presses the insult home 
by cramming money into her hand as he shows her the door. 

The story is a perfect anatomy of the neurotic temperament, with 
its compulsions, its inhibitions, its emotional ambivalence and con- 
sequent discords, every expression of a disruptive maladjustment. 
In telling it, the undergroundling clings to the fiction that he is 
setting it down without thought of the reading public, simply to get 
rid of an oppressive memory. Before he makes his confession, how- 
ever, he delivers himself of a rambling philippic directed against 
imaginary opponents, his voice now crackling with sarcasm, now 
choking with hysteria. There is self -analysis here, there is philo- 
sophizing, there is revolt. 

Plainly this tormented soul has much in common with his 
creator. If Dostoevsky did not necessarily share the underground- 
ling's experience, this rebellion is his, these ideas are of a piece 
with his thinking. Indeed, the undergroundling's outpourings can 
best be understood in connection with the polemics in which Dosto- 
evsky had engaged on the pages of his reviews. The "new men," 
for whom Chernyshevsky was the chief spokesman, believed that 
human beings were governed by enlightened self-interest. Dostoev- 
sky saw things otherwise. Human nature, his hero insists, is not so 
simple. Man is at bottom an irrational creature. He loves not only 
creation, but chaos and destruction, not only well-being, but also 
suffering; he loathes the mechanical, the predictable, the final. 
Reason is but a part of the self; it knows what it has succeeded in 
learning, and some things it will never learn; all that's certain about 
history is that it has little to do with reason. 

A belittling of the intellectual member is not surprising in a man 
who proclaimed himself ready to side against truth, if he could not 
have Christ on other terms. Was he afraid of reason? It threatened 
his faith. It challenged traditions and allegiances to which we will 
find him clinging with increasing fervour. Worse: that cold light, 
directed upon his own soul, might reveal a disorder there distressing 
for him to contemplate, might dispel a darkness that soothed him. 

The Christian, Dostoevsky had said to himself in the chastened 
mood that followed his wife's death, should be ready to surrender 
his ego. But who could attain to that ideal? No, argues the man 


from the underground, strip the personality of all its perquisites 
and at the core you will find not the intellect, but the will. What 
man wants is not to act rationally and to his own advantage but to 
act as he chooses, following his own sweet foolish impulse, no 
matter what the consequences may be. And if it be proved beyond 
the shadow of a doubt that the will is an illusion, that man is a 
mere mechanical device, obedient to laws external to himself? What 
if science reaches a point where the behaviour of a given individual 
may be calculated fifty years in advance? The undergroundling does 
not deny such a horrible eventuality — which, incidentally, science 
in our own day has seriously called in question — but he believes 
that man would "kick over the whole show," would go mad, rather 
than accept such an orderly, completely rational deterministic 
scheme of things. 

Chernyshevsky and his kind believed that the good of the in- 
dividual, rightly understood, is one with the good of the community, 
and so looked forward to a perfect society established on the basis 
of a rational egoism or what a later thinker was to stigmatize as 
"intelligent greed." Already in his Winter Notes on Summer Im- 
pressions Dostoevsky had inveighed against this brand of socialism 
as a product of the individualistic West. Seeing that the spirit of 
brotherhood is wanting, he argued there, the European socialist 
seeks to persuade men that it is to their interest to live a communal 
life. He reckons the gains and losses entailed thereby, and the 
balance is unquestionably in favour of his plan. There is just a 
mere trifle on the debit side: the loss of a fraction of personal 
liberty. But to the beneficiary this is the fly in the ointment, and 
he will have none of it. The socialist will call him a fool and say 
that the man hasn't the sense of an ant, who accepts her place in 
a rational scheme. The undergroundling, speaking here for Dos- 
toevsky, definitely sides with this fool in rejecting the socialist 
millennium. In What's To Be Done?, the novel Chernyshevsky 
wrote while imprisoned in the fortress of Peter and Paul, the heroine 
dreams of a palace inhabited by the happy communists of the 
future, a structure of iron and glass that she cannot describe ex- 
cept to say that a hint of it is conveyed by the Crystal Palace at 
Sydenham. It is the very building that had so horrified Dostoevsky 
during his London visit. It is this Crystal Palace the underground- 


ling reviles, declaring it to be actually an ant heap, a sheepfold, 
a prison. Let my right hand wither, he cries, before I carry one 
brick to such a building! 

He delivers himself of this protest in the course of Chapter Ten, 
which Dostoevsky had told Mikhail, embodied his central idea, 
but which had been hopelessly garbled by the censor. "Oh, these 
censors, these swine, where 1 mocked everything and sometimes 
simulated blasphemy, that they let stand, but where 1 deduced from 
all that the necessity of faith and of Christ, that they cut! What's 
the matter with those censors? Are they in a conspiracy against the 
Government, eh?" One readily imagines that this central idea was 
of a piece with the meditation on Christ, which he set down in his 
journal between the writing of the first and second parts of this 
narrative. Dostoevsky had used the story to attack the positivists, 
the utilitarians, the rationalists, who had not reckoned with the 
nature of the creature destined to inhabit the palace of their design. 
On the other hand, merely to rebel against a mechanistic universe 
and to cling to one's private whim, as the undergroundling does, 
was death. What he said in his meditation, what presumably the 
censors would not let him say in his story, was that the only way out 
was the way of Christ, the surrender of one's will in the name of 
love. Unfortunately the passages expunged from the ''Notes" have 
not been preserved. 

At the climax of the story it is the prostitute who shows herself 
capable of a genuine and generous love, while the man from the 
underground, who has nothing to give, tramples on her precious" 
offering. At this crucial point he is seen as totally deficient, cut off 
from the sources of "living life." He is here conceived as an ex- 
ample of what it is to have nothing to lean upon, nothing to give 
oneself to, to be torn from the moorings of tradition, in a word, to 
be one of those divorced from "the soil," the symbol of every value 
in Dostoevsky's social philosophy. Not that this conception of the 
undergroundling is sustained. Dostoevsky spares no effort to strip 
this "anti-hero" naked and show him in all his shame, and yet he 
does not compass his end. The wretch's very capacity for rebellion, 
for pain, shows that life is still hot in him. He may be "the nastiest, 
stupidest, absurdest, and most envious of all the worms on earth " 
his behaviour may be base and spiteful, but it is felt to be the 


warped expression of impulses that are of fundamental worth. He 
spits upon the good and the beautiful, but it is in the mood of one 
who calls the grapes sour. And so it is not astonishing when this 
worm says to his imaginary opponents, the sane, normal men who 
carry on the world's work beyond the walls of this cave: "There 
is perhaps more life in me than in you." Nor is it surprising that 
Dostoevsky makes him, to some extent, his spokesman. A decade 
later the novelist was to jot down in his notebook an ambiguous 
apologia for the undergroundling. He is aware of his own baseness 
and indulges in self-punishment, yet is convinced that no one is 
any better than himself. "What is to support the will to reform?" 
Dostoevsky asked. "Reward? Faith? But there is no one to hand 
out rewards, no one to believe in." One more step, and you have 
extreme debauchery, crime (murder). That is "the tragedy of the 
underground," and Dostoevsky prided himself on having been the 
first to reveal it. "The underground, the underground, the poet of 
the underground!" he concluded. "Feuilleton writers harp on it, as 
though it were something humiliating for me. Fools! This is my 
glory, for it is the truth." 

The importance of "Notes from the Underground" is out of all 
proportion to the size of the piece. The ideas of which it is the 
vehicle are essential to his later, more massive works. It is the 
prologue to his novels. 



LIFE had snapped in two. He was left alone. He had nobody, 
nothing, to live for. Masha was gone, Mikhail was gone. The 
-/magazine was bankrupt. Existence was a dismal, inane bust- 
ling in a vacuum. To establish new contacts, to form new ties — the 
very thought was an abomination. He felt sterile, he was empty 
of everything but despair. As he looked back to the past he saw 
only its warm, familiar, homely aspects, the comradeship it had 
held, the love, the rewarding work. The future was a blank in which 
the sole certainties were loneliness, epilepsy with its threat of mad- 
ness or sudden death, old age. 

Shortly after Mikhail's death Dostoevsky expressed these senti- 
ments to Andrey. He reiterated them to Wrangel months later, 
after the review had gone under. He said the same thing to Polina 
Suslova's sister. And yet — it was absurd! — at the same time he had 
the paradoxical feeling that life was just beginning for him. He had, 
he said as much in earnest as in jest, the nine lives of a cat. There 
were in him reserves of vitality larger than he guessed. They had 
not failed him in previous crises; they did not fail him now. He had 
neither rebelled against nor been crushed by imprisonment and 
exile. Now fate was punishing him again, and again disaster gave 
him the sense of release and renewal that comes with expiation. 
His feeling that life was beginning for him had a far sounder 
foundation than his feeling of having come to the barren end of it. 
He was indeed on the threshold of a period in which he was to dis- 
cover the satisfaction of married happiness and of fatherhood, and 
in which he was to reach his full stature as a writer. 

As a matter of fact, there was not as wide a gulf between his 
past and his present as he sometimes imagined. There were bridges 
across the chasm. He had told Wrangel that the two who died were 
the only ones he had ever loved, and that he could not love again, 



nor did he want to. At the same time he was writing to Polina's 
sister that he still loved Polina. Furthermore, he was occupied less 
with this desperate old attachment than with more recent ones. 
Unthinkable as new ties seemed, the need for them asserted itself, 
and that in the months which immediately followed the funerals. 
Of one bizarre relation which engaged Dostoevsky at this time little 
is known beyond what is revealed in a bundle of letters dating 
from December, 1864, and January, 1865, and signed "Marfa 

Her Anglo-Saxon surname notwithstanding, the woman was a 
native Russian of the lower middle class, her maiden name being 
Panina. Dostoevsky had come to know her through a certain 
Gorsky, who contributed stories of life in the slums to both Vremya 
and Epo'kha. At the time she was living with this man, a wretched 
drunkard, having been passed on to him by another literary hack 
with whom she had sunk to the depths of destitution. Her youth 
and such looks as she may once have possessed had vanished. 
Dostoevsky took an interest in this wreck of a woman and, as she 
was familiar with English and possibly with other Western lan- 
guages, he offered her work as a translator. She fell ill and was 
admitted to a hospital. He may already have known something of 
her past, but it was through the somewhat incoherent letters which 
she wrote him from her sick-bed and those which she asked him to 
read before transmitting to her lover, that he learned some of the 
details of her extraordinary history. 

Her easy virtue consorted with a roving disposition. By her own 
account, she is "a pauper and a universal vagabond," and she 
lives for the moment: "I have always been of the opinion that life 
is made for impressions . . ." For logic she has no use. Her early 
career is a blank. She has been in Russia for two years. Before that 
she had been roaming Western Europe. One of her letters contains 
an extraordinary account of her wanderings, ending with her mar- 
riage in England to a sailor from Baltimore, who seems to have 
given her his surname, if nothing else. How much was fact and how 
much fantasy in this story? Whatever the answer, she refused to 
make literary capital of her adventures, though Gorsky kept insist- 
ing that she do so. 

Had it not been for him, she might sooner have left the hospital 


to which her checkered career had brought her. Gorsky, penniless, 
homeless, jealous as a cat, feared that on leaving the infirmary she 
would take up with any man who could give her a place to lay her 
head, and so he would come drunk and storming to the ward and 
make a scene, demanding that she stay on. by malingering. Dostoev- 
sky, from whom she seems to have hidden nothing, also came lo 
see her there, gave her money, gave her sympathy. At one time 
he advised her to stay with Gorsky. Again, in the teeth of the man's 
jealousy, he suggested that she come direct from the hospital to his 
own fiat. Did the lost creature attract him as a woman, as she had 
so many other men? [n her last letter to him, which is formal in 
tone, if not in content, she thanked him for all his kindness, saying: 
*'ln any event, whether or not I shall succeed in satisfying you 
physically, and whether there will be that spiritual harmony be- 
tween us upon which the continuation of our acquaintance will 
depend, believe me that T shall always remain thankful to you for 
having honoured me, for at least a moment or for some time, with 
your friendship and favour." She was happy, she went on, to have 
met, after all her sufferings, a man like Dostoevsky, "possessing 
such serenity of spirit, tolerance, commonsense, and candour. . . ." 
She concluded: "It is all the same to me whether our relationship 
lasts a long time or not, but I swear to you that far beyond any 
material advantage, T prize the fact that you have not scorned the 
fallen part of my nature, that you raised me above the level on which 
T stand in my own estimation." With this letter Marfa Brown re- 
treats into the obscurity whence she came. 

So little is known about this strange incident, about the char- 
acter of the woman and the nature of her relations with Dostoevsky, 
that it is impossible to speak with any certainty of the part she 
played in his life and the imprint she left on his work. Perhaps some 
memory of her went to the creation of those of his women who 
have left the path of conventional virtue without truly degrading 


Perhaps the enigmatic Marfa faded out of the picture because 
Dostoevsky's attention was diverted by the appearance of a girl 
who had everything that she lacked — youth, beauty, health, spirit. 


and who, moreover, came of a distinguished and well-to-do family. 
If Marfa, in her pitiableness, bore some faint resemblance to his 
poor wife, the newcomer was like a younger and lovelier Polina. 
Like Polina, she had swum into his ken as a contributor to his 
review. Soon after Mikhail's death forced him to take over Epokha, 
he had received first one and then a second manuscript from an 
ambitious novice by the name of Anna Korvin-Krukovskaya. He 
wrote encouragingly to the authoress and printed both her stories. 

In January, 1865, she came to the capital from her country home 
and on February 28 she sent him an invitation to call on her at the 
home of her aunts, whom she was visiting. When he reached the 
mansion on Vasilyevsky Ostrov and was admitted to the drawing- 
room, he discovered that his contributor was a Lorelei of a girl 
with golden hair and green eyes, in her early twenties. They were 
not alone. Her mother and her little sister, a sharp child of four- 
teen, sat with them during the entire visit, and two elderly aunts 
kept peering in at them at odd moments, staring at him as though 
he were a wild beast. Disconcerted by all these supernumeraries, 
the pretty bluestocking maintained a stubborn silence. The mother 
exerted all her social gifts to relieve the situation. In vain, Dostoev- 
sky, no less vexed than his young hostess, answered rudely in mono- 
syllables, kept plucking nervously at his thin blond beard and biting 
his moustache. He looked old and ill, as always when he was not 
at ease. After half an hour of this misery, he got up, bowed 
awkwardly, and, shaking hands with no one, made his exit. Anna 
burst into hysterical tears. To have anticipated for months this first 
encounter with the gre^t writer who had set her on the road to fame 
and to be thus spied on, babied, and thwarted! It was intolerable! 
The mother joined her tears to the daughter's, and everyone was 

For the young authoress, Dostoevsky's visit was more momen- 
tous than he could have guessed. Aside from anything else, it put 
a seal on her declaration of independence from her family. Their 
attitude was such that she had had to keep her literary venture 
secret from them. When one of his letters, enclosing a remittance, 
had come by accident into the hands of her father, there had been 
a terrible scene. General Korvin-Krukovsky was a gentleman of the 
old school, who looked forward to seeing his lovely daughter shine 


at court balls, and who had a particular horror of lady authors. 
*'You begin by selling your writings," he shouted at Anna, "and 
you will end by selling yourself." Nevertheless, the culprit was 
allowed to read her story to the domestic circle. The general was 
so moved by it that he relented to the extent of granting Anna per- 
mission to meet Dostoevsky on the family's next visit to the capital. 
Of course, her mother must be present when the journalist and 
ex -convict came to call. 

A few days after Dostoevsky's first unhappy visit, he called again. 
He had to. He had fallen in love with his fair contributor at sight. 
This time he found the two sisters alone, and, freed from constraint, 
both he and Anna were different persons: he, youthful, amiable, 
brilliant; she, eager, interested, gay. The ice once broken, he kept 
on coming to the house, rather too frequently. And yet he was made 
to feel at home, even by the mother. Except when there were other 
visitors, he was quite at his best, thrilling his sympathetic listeners 
with monologues delivered in his broken, passionate whisper. Show- 
ing no reserve before the two sheltered young girls, one of them 
in her early teens, he outlined to them the plots of his projected 
novels, including details that were to prove unprintable, and 
described episodes from his own life, such as his first epileptic 
attack. The mother must have become genuinely fond of him to 
continue putting up with him. 

Although he was so much of a social liability, she had the rash- 
ness to invite him to an evening party at which she was entertain- 
ing all her most fashionable acquaintances. He came, in an ill-fitting 
dress suit, and proceeded to embarrass his hostess in every way. 
He would respond to an introduction by mumbling unintelligibly 
and turning his back on the guest. The worst of it was that he mo- 
nopolized Anna, holding her hand, whispering in her ear, repelling 
every intrusion upon their privacy, and, when her mother finally 
succeeded in separating them, almost by main force, he sat sulking 
in his corner and glaring at the company. The particular object of 
his angry regard was a handsome young colonel, a cousin of Anna's, 
who was quietly but firmly courting her. Dostoevsky decided that 
the family was bent on marrying her off to this wealthy fop with 
the epaulets and the shapely legs, and the only time during the 
whole evening that he opened his mouth, it was to utter a broad hint 


about mothers who were eager to find rich husbands for their 

That evening was the beginning of the end of Anna's infatuation 
with the great man. He found himself at a disadvantage: a middle- 
aged man in love with a young vixen. Feeling that he was losing 
her, he came more frequently, he exacted accounts of how and with 
whom she spent her time in his absence. She was out, she was danc- 
ing, she was with her cousin — and this while he had been struggling 
with chaos in the Epokha office. He fairly invited her to tease him, 
which she did with the cruelty of youth. One way in which she 
taunted him was to flaunt her radicalism. She must already have 
been something of an unbeliever and a socialist. He scolded her for 
a little nihilist. They argued. They quarrelled. He left, saying that 
he would never see her again. He returned the next day. 

Anna's little sister Sonia was generally on the scene, drinking 
everything in and watching her sister's suitor with worshipping eyes 
She was rather pleased to see them quarrel. The cooler Anna grew, 
the more serious became Sonia's transports. Dostoevsky fell into 
the habit of holding her up as a model to the frivolous Anna. He 
praised her earnestness, her looks, her manners. A warm word 
from him about her playing set her to securing a good teacher at 
once and to spending hours at the piano every day. She was at 
particular pains to learn the Sonate Pathetique because he had once 
said that it stirred up in him a whole world of forgotten emotions. 
He was ordinarily deaf to music, but in the right mood he could 
be shaken by Beethoven as well as by a barrel-organ tune. 

One night, toward the end of their stay in Petersburg, Dostoev- 
sky came to the house to find the two girls alone. The hour, the 
impending departure, the unexpected privacy, all wrought them 
up. Sonia was not long in sitting down at the piano and starting her 
Sonate Pathetique. Ignoring her sister, she played for an audience 
of one, trying to wake in him that "world of lost emotions." She 
did not look up from the keys until she lifted her hands from the 
last chord, to discover that she was alone. With a heavy heart she 
wandered from one room to the next and, lifting a portiere, saw 
Dostoevsky sitting on a sofa beside Anna, holding her hand, his 
face pale and distraught, and heard him telling her in a shaken 
whisper how passionately he loved her. Sonia rushed off to her own 


room to hide her shame and sorrow, dreading nothing more than 
she would be summoned — she knew they had heard her — and that 
she would have to face those two. For the first time she became 
aware of the nature of her feelings for Dostoevsky. The pages from 
her diary that described those moments might have come from one 
of his novels. She got into bed and lay there sobbing. As the hours 
passed, and no one called her, her dread changed to indignation at 
such neglect. She hated them both. No one could have understood 
her emotions more fully than the man who had roused them. But 
he was not concerned with Sonia just then. Anna had refused him. 

As she confided to her little sister the following night, she could 
give this genius her respect, her admiration, even her affection, 
but she could not marry him. With astonishing insight she realized 
that he needed a wife who would have no life of her own, but would 
devote herself wholly and cheerfully to his needs. She was not that 
sort; even now she was constantly irritated by not being herself in 
his presence. The prospect of being "sucked into" him, and lost, 
terrified her. In rejecting her suitor she must have told him these 
hard truths. He came only once more, to make his farewells. 

The episode in which the two sisters figured so romantically is set 
down in Soma's reminiscences, written many years later. She adds 
that some six months after their departure from the capital Dostoev- 
sky wrote to Anna that he had fallen in love with "a wonderful 
girl," who had agreed to marry him. The betrothal occurred in 
November, 1866. It has therefore been generally assumed that the 
memoirist committed an error, speaking of six months instead of a 
year and six months. A suggestion has recently been made that the 
novelist proposed to Anna not in the spring of 1865, but in the 
winter of 1865-66 when the Korvin-Krukovskys were again on a visit 
to the capital. It is certain that in 1865 and 1866 the two kept up a 
desultory correspondence and that he expressed a desire to visit the 
family at their estate. 

According to her successor in his affections, Dostoevsky was 
actually betrothed to Anna and they parted because of the incom- 
patibility of their views, but he loved her enough to wish her a 
mate who would share her crooked opinions. She did indeed marry 
a socialist, and a Frenchman to boot. They were both active in the 
Paris Commune, and a secretary of the Russian embassy in the 


French capital described her as a Megaera. After the fall of the 
Commune she saved her husband from the scaffold by escaping 
with him to Russia. There Dostoevsky, then a married man, met 
her again, and the two families became friendly. He also saw a good 
deal of her sister. She had married a certain Kovalevsky, whose 
name her mathematical genius made internationally famous. 


He was a bankrupt lover. He was a bankrupt publisher. He 
had sunk his legacy from Aunt Kumanina in Epokha, and the 
failure of the review left him not only penniless but, since he had 
taken over Mikhail's obligations, saddled with debts amounting 
to thirteen thousand roubles, or perhaps it was fifteen thousand — 
he was hazy on the subject. What would become of the widow 
and the orphans? There was his work to fall back upon, but he 
was in an awkward position with regard to marketing it. He had 
perforce to offer it to editors of reviews that had been reviled in 
the pages of Vremya and Epokha. His first step was to obtain a 
loan from the Fund for Needy Authors. He had indicated in his 
application that he was threatened with debtors' prison, where, 
in his present state of health, he could not write. He then turned 
to his old employer, Krayevsky, and asked an advance on a novel. 
The Drunkards, to be delivered in the autumn, but met with a 

Suddenly immediate payment was demanded on some of his 
overdue notes. Debtors' prison loomed all too close. Matters went 
so far that he was visited by a police officer. He got into talk with 
this man and was soon listening interestedly to all manner of de- 
tails about the work of the police. The bits of information sup- 
plied by this casual friend were stored away and eventually put 
to good use in the writing of Crime and Punishment. The officer 
did not have to discharge the unpleasant duty of carrying him off 
to jail. At the psychological moment Stellovsky, a Barabbas of a 
publisher, came forward with a shameful contract that Dostoev- 
sky promptly signed. It allowed the man to bring out an edition 
of all of Dostoevsky 's previous work, and further provided that 
he should receive an unpublished novel on or before November 1, 


1866. Failure to deliver this manuscript on time gave the pub- 
lisher the right to issue, without payment to the author, every- 
thing he would write within the next nine years. In consideration 
of all this, Dostoevsky received three thousand roubles. Two-thirds 
of this sum went toward the payment of the protested notes. He 
did not then know that the money actually reverted to Stellovsky; 
the lOU's on which immediate payment was demanded were in 
possession of this shark, who had quietly bought them up for a song. 
Early in July, with a small residue in his pocket, hardly enough to 
live on for any length of time, Dostoevsky went abroad. 

He had long ago decided to spend three months in every year 
out of Russia. He was lonely abroad, and the alien surroundings 
disgusted him, yet, oddly enough, he felt better and worked bet- 
ter away from home. This time he had some hope of seeing Polina 
Suslova again. The previous year she had written him that they 
might meet at Spa and upbraided him for writing a cynical story 
quite out of character, by which she meant "Notes from the Under- 
ground." But Mikhail's death had kept him at home. There was 
also the lure of the gaming-tables, and there may have been the 
added urge to escape the scene of his present embarrassments. 

As though he were ever able to escape! He fell from the frying- 
pan into the fire. The trip was a disastrous one. True, there was a 
letup in his attacks, but at the beginning of the journey he caught 
a chill, and the fever clung to him relentlessly. From Berlin he went 
to Wiesbaden, where he found Polina. 

One can only surmise what happened between the two during the 
few days they spent together. At the time when Epokha was still a 
going concern an acquaintance had jokingly suggested to her that 
she marry Dostoevsky and turn the review into a radical organ. She 
would not hear of it: "What kind of Iphigenia was she?" she wrote 
in her diary, with more self-knowledge than classical learning. She 
told herself that she hated Dostoevsky — he had caused her needless 
suffering, he had killed her faith in men. In the angry letters that 
she had sent him she accused him of sadism, coarseness, cynicism. 
His answers have not been preserved but in a letter to her sister, 
dated April 19, 1865, he denied Polina's accusations. She had been 
offended, he wrote, because he had at long last dared to talk back. 
"Her egoism and amour-propre are colossal," he added "She de- 


mands everything from people, never forgives anyone a single im- 
perfection and exempts herself from the slightest obligation to 
others . . . There isn't any humanity in her relations with me. She 
knows that I still love her. Why, then, does she torture me!" The 
Wiesbaden meeting apparently did not improve Dostoevsky's stand- 
ing with her. She continued to treat him contemptuously and piti- 
lessly. Yet she did not put an end to their relationship, and when 
she left for Paris they parted amicably. 

As before, she brought him bad luck at the tables. At the end 
of five days he had lost everything, was reduced to pawning his 
watch, and owed money at the hotel. He was still sick and was 
worried about Polina, who had left with so little cash that he 
feared she might be stranded at Cologne, and starving. The serv- 
ants did not answer the bell, didn't clean his shoes, were altogether 
wanting in respect for him. He kept as quiet as possible, sitting 
and reading most of the time, so as not to get up an appetite. 

Knowing that Turgenev was in Baden, he appealed to him for 
a loan. And he disliked the man, all the more intensely since 
he had once been in love with him. One of the first books he had 
read on coming out of prison was A Sportsman s Sketches, and it 
had filled him with delight. When Turgenev's Fathers and Chil- 
dren appeared, the same year as The House of the Dead, Dosto- 
evsky wrote an enthusiastic letter to the author, and was assured 
that he was one of the two men who understood the novel. As 
an editor, he had had some friendly interchanges with Turgenev 
and, indeed, had coaxed a story, 'Thantoms," out of the literary 
lion for the first issue of Epokha. In discussing this piece with 
Mikhail privately, Dostoevsky had said that it was "fairly decent,'* 
but that there was "much trash in it, something nasty, sickly, senile, 
impotent, and so without faith — in a word, the whole Turgenev 
with all his convictions," Yet here he was, making a clean breast 
of his shameful predicament to this objectionable creature, and 
even saying that it was morally easier to turn to him because he 
was more understanding than others. Turgenev did indeed send 
half the amount requested — a debt which was not to be repaid for 
eleven years — but this was only a drop in the bucket. 

Dostoevsky also turned for help to Herzen, who was then in 
Geneva, and even to Polina, saying that if she had reached Paris 


and could raise some cash, she should send him one hundred and 
fifty gulden forthwith. Herzen was silent. Herzen was dismissing 
him as a disorderly wretch who didn't deserve help — was that it? 
To think of this socialist upholding middle-class morality! He was 
forgotten by God and man. And this intolerable idleness, this waste, 
this uncertainty! He hated the town and its last inhabitant. He had 
struck bottom: If there was anything lower, he had no knowledge 
of it. For three days he had gone without dinner, but what was 
worse than hunger was the meanness of the servants in refusing him 
a candle in the evening, if he had so much as an end left from the 
night before. 

Finally there was a kind letter from Herzen, but no money. 
Again he appealed to Polina. Another fortnight passed, and his 
situation was unchanged. Then he confessed everything to Wrangel 
and begged for money with which to pay off his debts and go to 
Paris. There was no reply and he wrote again. He was threatened 
with arrest; there was no question of Paris now, he must go home. 
But on what? He was in utter despair. At least, he was idle no 
longer. He was working day and night on a story, a new version 
of the piece refused by Krayevsky. He had a thousand roubles' 
worth of manuscript and would surely be able to repay his friend 
within a month. 

At last, a hundred thalers! Wrangel was to be counted on. But 
the hotel-keeper got most of it, and he was just where he had 
been before. It was now the end of September. His one hope was 
Katkov, the editor of Russky vestnik. He had had the happy idea 
of offering him the work he had under way, asking an advance 
of three hundred roubles on it. He soon realized that instead of 
a short piece he would be able to finish in a fortnight or a month 
at most, he had a long novel on his hands. The story grew, not 
only in volume, but in depth. He felt that he was at work on "the 
best thing" he had ever written. Not that writing was easy, for 
his health was wretched. His epileptic attacks had let up, but he 
was wasting away with fever. 

Finally, the local Russian priest came to his aid, giving security 
for him on what he owed the hotel-keeper, and advancing him 
the fare home. On the way he stopped off at Copenhagen to see 
Wrangel. Early in October he was back in Petersburg. 


The very first night home he had a violent attack. He had 
hardly recovered from it when he was struck down by one that 
was even worse. Within six weeks he had four seizures. The one 
bright spot in the gloom that enveloped him was the fact that 
Katkov accepted the novel he was busy with, and sent him the 
advance he had requested. But what was three hundred roubles 
when he had just added two more creditors, in the persons of Wran- 
gel and the Wiesbaden priest, to his long list, when he had not only 
himself to support, but his stepson Pasha as well, when he had his 
sick brother Kolya to help, and when Mikhail's widow and her 
children were hanging on his neck like so many millstones! Emilia 
made it plain that she considered him obliged to support them. 
Hadn't her poor husband kept sending him remittances when he 
was in Siberia? Hadn't he founded a journal to give him a place to 
print what other reviews rejected? And hadn't he, Dostoevsky, in 
the end wrecked the enterprise that should have kept them all? 

Before the week was out the money was gone, partly into the 
widow's pocket, and he had to borrow another hundred to live 
on. Where should he turn next? If he could only get a Govern- 
ment pension for Mikhail's family, or if he could revive the maga- 
zine! But he dared not think of any new venture until he had brought 
his name before the public again by finishing his novel. 

He had not been home long when Polina arrived in town. As 
indicated above, he had written her sister in the spring that he still 
loved her, if against his better judgment. Now, in the midst of these 
desolate, harassing days, he threw his better judgment to the 
winds. Perhaps they could still make something of life together. He 
pursued her as before. They quarrelled as before. While abroad 
she had been moving in radical circles, and intellectually they were 
further apart than ever. Knowing his weak spot, she poked fun at 
religion. He reminded her ungallantly of her previous complaisance: 
"You cannot forgive me the fact that you once gave yourself to me, 
and so you take revenge on me." On November 2, 1865, she made 
tiiis entry in her diary: "He (Dostoevsky) has long been offering 
me his hand and heart, but he only makes me angry by it." Some 
three months later she left Petersburg. The break was now final. 


'^ t I iPiROUGH all the vexations that met him on his return home 
I Dostoevsky kept steadily at his novel. He was not going 
X to spoil it. He started putting it in the form of a confession, 
and gave it up. Next he tried writing it in the shape of a diary kept 
by the hero, a murderer, after he had committed his crime, and 
gave that up. Both drafts have been preserved, at least in part, 
and published. Finding these methods cramping, he did not hesi- 
tate, in November, to cast all he had done overboard and rewrite the 
novel in the objective manner which is that of the final version. It 
was this ability to destroy and build anew, this constant exhausting 
labour, that held for him moments of intense joy and an indestruc- 
tible sense of power. The frustrations of sickness, the want of affec- 
tion, the indignities thrust upon him by poverty and indebtedness, 
could not rob him of that. By the end of December he had just a 
fraction of the manuscript ready. Nevertheless, Katkov was rash 
enough to begin the publication of Crime and Punishment in the 
January number of Russky vestnik for 1866, and thereafter, for a 
whole year, Dostoevsky raced against time to furnish copy for each 
successive issue. Luckily for him, the review never came out on 

His winter was bitterly lonely. His sole companion in the dis- 
ordered fOoms was Pasha. He lived like a hermit, saw no one, 
went nowhere. No sooner did the epileptic attacks abate than he 
was laid up with piles — nothing new, but more virulent than ever. 
The worst part of it was that his ailment made writing impossible, 
so that when he recovered he had to sweat to make up for lost 
time. And then the seizures commenced all over again. He had 
fits of irritability that exceeded all bounds. There were constant 
money worries. He pawned his clothes. He sold his books. He 
borrowed right and left. He lived in the shadow of debtors' prison, 



horrified by the thought that it would wreck his novel. The more he 
paid his creditors, the uglier they got. He was killing himself for 
Mikhail's family, and the children didn't even bow to him. He was 
so wretched that as he looked back to the period before his brother's 
death, it seemed a time of peace and plenty. 

And yet, after enumerating all his troubles in a letter to a friend, 
he concluded: "But do not imagine that I am much tormented. 
No, there have been many happy moments. Life and hope have not 
ended for me yet." Although his seizures meant intermittent traffic 
with death, his mind was naturally turned toward life. As usual, 
he thrived on punishment. He was somehow quickened and ener- 
gized by it. To Strakhov he had the jaunty appearance of an eligible 
on the lookout for a wife. 

Indeed, the sad state of his health and of his finances notwith- 
standing, the thought of marriage was always there. He had been 
refused by Anna and by Polina. He was not discouraged. In the 
early spring he went to Moscow to get an advance from Katkov. 
This time he stayed with his sister Vera and was in the unaccus- 
tomed position of being a member of a large, jolly family. On 
Easter Eve the whole household went to church for the midnight 
service, but he remained at home in the company of a young 
thing, a friend of his twenty-year-old niece Sonia. The girl made 
up for what she lacked in looks by her gaiety and vivaciousness. 
When the family returned in the small hours, she laughingly con- 
fided to Sonia that her uncle had actually proposed to her and that, 
in turning him down, she had teased him with Pushkin's verse 
about " an old man't heart the years had petrified." 

His sister Vera, seeing the matter in a sober light, sought to 
engineer a match more suitable to his age and circumstances. The 
lady she fixed upon was her own sister-in-law. Yelena Pavlovna 
Ivanova. True, Mme. Ivanova was not free, but her husband. 
Dr. Ivanov's brother, had been ill for years, and his death was 
hourly expected. Dostoevsky lent himself to Vera's plans for him 
so far as to ask the prospective widow some months later whether, 
if she had her freedom, she would marry him. She would not 
say either yes or no, so that he felt himself nowise bound. 

He had intended to go to Germany in the spring and finish his 
novel there in {^eace, but this proving impossible, he spent the 


summer with the Ivanovs in the country just outside of Moscow. 
He occupied a room in an empty cottage, but he went there only 
to work and to sleep, taking his meals with his sister's family. It 
was delightful to be with them all again, particularly Sonia. The 
more he saw of her, the more he loved her. He admired in her 
a restraint, a clear intelligence, a native dignity, an inability to 
compromise, precisely those features, as he was to tell her one day, 
that he found lacking in himself. One seems to glimpse something 
of Sonia in those strong and compassionate, virginal and warm- 
hearted women who move through some of his pages. 

The Ivanov house was overflowing with young people, the child- 
ren, already numbering nine, and their friends, so that there would 
not seldom be twenty sitting around the dinner-table. In this holi- 
day atmosphere Dostoevsky relaxed and soon found himself taking 
part in the moonlight walks, the games, the charades, the practical 
jokes, with the best of them. He was even more careful of his appear- 
ance than usual, his shirt well starched, his blue jacket and grey 
trousers neatly pressed. He had long since given up shaving his chin 
soldier-fashion, and the thinness of his beard touched his vanity, a 
fact his young companions were not slow to discover. They teased 
him about it, admitting among themselves that he looked younger 
than his forty-five years. 

"When I write something," he had once said, "I think of it 
while I dine, while I sleep, while I am engaged in conversation." 
For all his immersion in his work, he could turn from the writing 
of Crime and Punishment to the composing of a piece of nonsense 
verse. He was apt, nevertheless, to leave his young friends abruptly 
and go to his desk, and the servant who was sent to sleep near him, 
so that he would not be alone during a seizure, came back one day 
refusing to spend another night with the master: why, he had a mur- 
der in his mind, he walked the floor all night talking about it aloud 
to himself. 

The autumn found Dostoevsky again in Petersburg busy with 
the last part of Crime and Punishment. It was not until Christmas, 
however, that he turned in the final instalment, but since the re- 
view was late, as usual, he was still able to see the concluding chap- 
ters appear in the December issue. 



Originally he conceived the story which developed into Crime 
and Punishment as a short novel dealing with the drink evil — a 
topic that was then in the public eye. Thus the narrative would 
have a bearing on a current social problem, a consideration that 
never ceased to count with this quondam disciple of Belinsky. And 
then abruptly he decided to make something totally different of it. 
The drunkards, who were to have given the title to the story, receded 
into the background, eventually taking a wholly subordinate place, 
and the novel became "a psychological account of a crime," as he 
described it in offering to Russky vestnik. The plot of this Russian 
tragedy remained virtually as he outlined it in his letter to Katkov: 
an impoverished university student — to be called Raskolnikov — 
kills a worthless old pawnbroker and her sister into the bargain; 
chance favours him — he commits the murder without leaving any 
tell-tale traces behind him so that he is beyond the reach of justice; 
but in the end an inner compulsion brings him to confess. It was 
early in Dostoevsky's Wiesbaden captivity, just after he had gambled 
away his last thaler, perhaps as he was strolling under the trees or 
lying sleepless in his unpaid-for room, that his imagination first 
seized upon the idea of Raskolnikov's crime. Here was something 
to weigh in the balance against his losses. 

Raskolnikov is a spirited youth, high-minded, with generous 
impulses and more than a touch of the Schilleresque about him. 
At the same time he lacks that integration which makes for moral 
health — his very name connotes schism. He is akin to the fantasts 
and brooding recluses who haunted Dostoevsky's imagination in 
the days before his exile. Like them, he is one of life's expatriates, 
leading an unreal, solitary, cerebral existence. And the student's 
rags smell of the foul air of the underground. He has in him some- 
thing of the venom that the troglodyte secreted in his dismal cave; 
he takes the undergroundling's vindictive pleasure in hJs humilia- 
tions. Yet in one respect he differs radically from the dreamers and 
the inhabitants of the underground: their conflicting impulses para- 
lyze the will and leave them incapable of action; his inner seething 


must sooner or later precipitate an explosive deed. It is thus that 
Dostoevsky takes the great stride from pathos to tragedy. 

How could those sensitive hands bring down the axe and rum- 
mage among the bloodstained trinkets? Repeatedly the murderer 
asks himself, in anguish of soul, what moved him to his fateful 
act. His self-probing is most rigorous and acute in the scene of 
his confession to Sonia, the saintly prostitute who plays so impor- 
tant a role in his history. 

Why did he kill? For plunder. But that wasn't it. If Napoleon, 
say, could not have begun his career without killing and robbing 
an old pawnbroker, would he have hesitated? But never mind 
Napoleon. There he was, ground down by poverty, with the pros- 
pect of endless drudgery, and virtue as its sole reward. He had 
only one life to live. With the wretched old usurer's money he could 
make something of himself, save his mother from penury and his 
sister from a loveless marriage or worse. Then he would give him- 
self to the service of humanity. One tiny crime in exchange for 
thousands of good deeds! One death for a hundred lives! Shall a 
man stand by while people suffer, for fear of spilling a little blood? 
But what nonsense! He didn't murder to help his mother. He didn't 
murder to gain wealth and power and become a benefactor of man- 
kind. He was urged on by something altogether different. He might 
have plodded, slaved, achieved something that way. But he would 
not. He lay in his dusty den like a spider, and sulked, brooded. 
Perhaps he was a little mad. Perhaps it was sickness. At any rate, 
a new, a compelling idea took possession of him. Men are what they 
are, and nothing will change them. But there are two kinds of men. 
There is the common run, who live within the law and cannot do 
otherwise. And there are the Caesars, the masters, those who have 
a new word to say and therefore have a right — with the sanction of 
their own conscience — to shed blood, those who abrogate the law 
and renew it thereby. Power lies ready for the daring one to take. 
He killed simply to test himself, to find out and quickly, whether he 
was a man who had the right, as well as the daring, to transgress. 
What he raised his hand against was not a human being, but a 
principle — the moral principle. But the very fact that he needed to 
test himself was proof enough that he was not one of the strong. 
Furthermore, with a part of his mind he had known all along that 


he was not made of heroic stuff, and that indeed he would be admit- 
ting as much to himself after the murder. Perhaps he swung the axe 
merely to escape debating with himself about it any longer. 

Here is a tangled skein! In unravelling it one gets little help either 
from the prosecutor, who is shown to have an extraordinary in- 
sight into the criminal's character, or from the author himself. 
Dostoevsky early recognized that ambiguity in accounting for the 
crime would work confusion in the story, and he made a note to 
the effect that he must explain it "either this way or that way." That 
he did not bring himself to do so is a tribute to his understanding of 
the complexity and elusiveness of motives. 

The deed once done, the murderer is seized by emotions he had 
not reckoned on. He feels himself cut off from mankind "as with 
scissors." It is as if he had suffered an immitigable excommunica- 
tion from the body of his fellowmen. As the days go on, his loneli- 
ness is made more terrible by an anxiety that sometimes touches 
panic, sometimes yields to the apathy of exhaustion. In the end, 
unable to bear his sufferings, he gives himself up to the authorities. 

Although the motivation of the murder remains uncertain, the 
role played by cerebration is stressed. Raskolnikov's is a crime 
of the intellect, of "a heart unhinged by theories," as the astute 
investigating officer diagnoses the case, the act of a man capable 
of killing another or himself for the sake of an idea. While the 
criminal's responsibility is not called in question, nevertheless he 
is presented as having acted in a compulsive way. In spite of his 
uncompromising intelligence and his habit of introspection, Ras- 
kolnikov is ignorant of what moved him to his deed and can only 
offer rationalizations. He commits the murder half against his will. 
He walks to the crime as though "not on his own legs," and goes 
through with it "as though the hem of his coat were caught in the 
wheels of a machine and he were drawn into it." His turnings and 
tv/istings, his return to the place of the crime, his circling round the 
investigating officer "like a moth round a candle," his dealings 
with Sonia — all point to an irresistible urge to confess. His behaviour 
proclaims a craving for punishment in order to placate his offended 
conscience. Yet if he is feverishly busy analysing his reactions, he 
fails to see clearly into the workings of his own psyche. Punishment 
gives him a sense of release in a fashion incomprehensible to him. 


Photograph taken at Semipalatinsk, Siberia 


In some respects Raskolnikov answers to the description of a type 
of transgressor termed ''the neurotic criminal" by a leading psycho- 
analyst. Such an individual transgresses under the pressure of an 
unconscious drive and is far from deterred by punishment. 

Raskolnikov makes his confession in the same compulsive 
manner, not quite knowing why, under the urgency of a force that 
seems outside of himself. He goes to Siberia unrepentant. Not once 
does there escape from his lips anything like the cry: "Here's the 
smell of blood still!" All the anguish the murder has brought upon 
him does not compel him to acknowledge it as a crime. He continues 
to cling to his "gloomy creed": the nwral right of the superior 
person to bloodshed. What gnaws at him is that he has failed the 
test. No, he is not one of the strong. He insists that what he suffers 
from is wounded pride. 

At the end of his first year as a convict Raskolnikov finally 
undergoes a spiritual rebirth. It is partly due to Sonia's compas- 
sionate love for him — she has gone with him to Siberia. This 
prostitute is the image of chastity and an exemplar of simple faith, 
humility, self-immolation. She has gone on the streets to feed her 
father's second wife, a consumptive, and her children whom the 
man's drinking have reduced to destitution. Sonia is the perfect 
foil for Raskolnikov. And yet if he is irresistibly drawn to her and 
if it is to her that he first confesses, it is because he feels a similarity 
in their fates, and that not merely by reason of their both being 
outcasts. She had sacrificed herself; he had sacrificed others. But 
in so doing he had been experimenting upon himself and offering, 
as it were, his own throat to the knife. The peculiar kinship and the 
abyss between them are nowhere so strikingly suggested as in the 
scene wherein the prostitute reads aloud to the murderer the Gospel 
passage concerning the raising of Lazarus. None but these two who 
have put on corruption could be so stirred by the promise of resur- 
rection. Sonia is clearly the seed that, having died, will bear much 
fruit, and it is not astonishing that in the end she is the instrument 
of Raskolnikov's salvation. 


While the novel was still in embyro Dostoevsky had written to 
Katkov that Raskolnikov commits the murder under the influence 


of "certain odd unfinished ideas which are in the air." He was re- 
ferring to the irreligious, materialistic, rationalistic trend that he 
discovered on his return from Siberia — in short to nihilism. He 
had attacked it in Notes from the Underground, he was attacking 
it again. He felt that nihilism was weakening the moral fibre of his 
compatriots, and it was, in a sense, to medicine the times that he 
had written the tale in which earthly and heavenly justice is visited 
upon the evildoer. His intention was to show the criminal as the 
spiritual child of unbelief. Raskonikov belongs to an erring genera- 
tion. "You turned away from God," Sonia says to him, "and God 
has smitten you, has given you over to the devil." 

Lacking the discipline of religion, and with nothing but reason 
to guide him, he falls prey to the hideous idea that there is an elite 
having a moral right to crime. In the epilogue to the novel Raskol- 
nikov has a delirious dream. A dreadful new plague is spreading 
over the earth. Attacked by a mysterious virus, whole cities go mad, 
each of the madmen in a frenzy of intellectual arrogance believing 
that he alone is in possession of the truth. Men cannot agree among 
themselves as to how to perform the most ordinary tasks. The very 
distinction between good and evil, right and wrong, is lost. Men kill 
each other senselessly. Fire and famine stalk through the land. Were 
it not for a few pure spirits destined to found a new race, mankind 
would perish from the earth. The dream is a confused vision of a 
world falling apart because people depend on reason alone to hold it 
together. Significantly, the dream comes to Raskolnikov when he is 
at last on the verge of his repentance. It is as though an under- 
standing of his own folly were struggling to reach his consciousness. 
Had he not himself been possessed by this disease of the intellect? 
"Life took the place of dialectics." It is thus that I>ostoevsky indi- 
cates the nature of Raskolnikov's regeneration. 

A fe w days before the appe arance of the first instalmeniU)f Crime 
and Punishm ent, the newspapers carried the story ^f a M ossga;^ 
stud ent who had committed a^murderremarka^^ the one de- 
pictedL in_the noveTnpostoe vsky was quite^pm^udoif TFuslnark^^ 
his_astuteness. Here was proof that Raskolnikov's agjLwas no mere 

fi gment of a writer W antasy^buLxather a symptom of the disease^ 
ravaging^_a_j]0Otlfiss!-genej:^ti^ Impulsive young men were ready 
for monstrous deeds. In fact, when only a small portion of the 


novel had been printed, on the afternoon of April 4, 1866, one such 
young man, a member of a student circle, fired at the Tsar. Dosto- 
evsky, rushing to Maikov to tell him the shocking news, was pale 
and trembling, hardly able to express his horror at this attempt 
upon the father of the Russian people, to whom every subject owed 
fihal love and obedience. Everywhere he saw signs of the moral 
chaos to which educated people were a prey. 

Some ten years after the appearance of Crime and Punishment 
its author had an opportunity to pass judgment on a man who had 
committed an offence under circumstances similar to those in the 
imagined case of Raskolnikov. Dostoevsky received a letter from 
a former journalist who had turned bank clerk and been imprisoned 
for embezzling a large sum of money. Depending on a miserable 
pittance and with no assurance of keeping his position, he had 
decided to embezzle exactly three per cent of the bank's annual 
profit in order to support his old parents, secure the future of his 
brothers and sisters, his motherless children, his young fiancee and 
her immediate family, and to assist, he concluded his apologia, 
"many other insulted and injured, without doing any substantial 
harm to anybody." He was a close reader of Dostoevsky, and it is 
not impossible that he had been moved to the act partly under the 
influence of Raskolnikov's logic; like Raskolnikov, he remained 
impenitent. Dostoevsky found it in his heart to absolve the thief, or 
almost. 'T look upon your crime," he wrote in response, as you 
judge it yourself," adding with emphatic humility that he was no 
better than his correspondent. He told the offender, however, 
that he did not quite like the fact that he felt no compunction. 
"There is something higher," he concluded, "than the arguments 
of reason and the force of circumstance — before that everyone must 

To be guided by the intellect alone is to fall from confusion into 
mortal sin. Such is the lesson of Crime and Punishment. Morality 
rests on a transcendental, religious foundation. Man cannot be good, 
indeed, he cannot live, without God — the cry reverberates through- 
out the body of Dostoevsky's fiction. For the transgressor salvation 
lies in atonement through suffering. At one time he considered mak- 
ing the thesis that suffering is the price of happiness the central idea 
of the novel. "Man must earn his happiness," runs an entry in his 


notebook, "and always through suffering." He erects this into "the 
law of our planet." Furthermore, he sees no injustice in such a dis- 
pensation: since the gain is so great there should be no quarrel with 
the cost. 


One need not take to heart either the moral that is explicit in 
Crime and Punishment, or any that may be extracted from it, in 
order to respond to its impact. The virtue of the book lies in the 
body and pressure of the story. One ignores the moments of bathos, 
the unhkely coincidences, the awkwardness, and yields to the power 
of a work that has the urgency, the tension, the seriousness of high 
drama, without abandoning the large privileges of the novel. 

The settings help to create an atmosphere of gloom and desola- 
tion: a coffinlike den that "cramps the soul and the mind"; a base- 
ment tavern, with the click of billiard balls from the rear and a 
hurdy-gurdy sounding through the window; a market place in the 
slums; the overly neat flat of the old pawnbroker. They are sketched 
in deftly and with a realistic concern for the precise detail, such 
as the glass of "yellow" water handed Raskolnikov in the police 
station (in the sixties drinking-water in Russia's capital was not 
purified). Against this dismal background one witnesses scenes that 
speak of life's cruelty and man's depravity and weakness, but also 
scenes that stir one because they show a drunkard, a sensualist, a 
prostitute, a murderer, in utter abasement or despair straining after 
something that will give a transcendent meaning to existence. Such 
is the passage in which that derehct, Marmeladov, Sonia's father, 
unburdens himself to Raskolnikov as the two sit over their glasses 
in a pot-house. There are few pages in Dostoevsky that so abound 
in pathos and pity and so amply attest his ability to find words that 
touch the heart. 

It cannot be said that one has the same sense of hearing a living 
voice when Sonia speaks. There is something obviously contrived 
and not a little that is mawkish about her. Svidrigailov, who has a 
leading role in a secondary plot, is a kind of double of Raskolnikov, 
a projection of the latter's lower self, a man beyond good and evil 
and so beyond life. Although a substantial figure, presented in 
realistic terms, at times he gives the impression of being a halluci- 


nation of Raskolnikov's. The nightmarish episode of his suicide is 
among the great scenes in the world of fiction. 

Others move through these pages, playing their parts in the sub- 
plots. But these are all tributary to the main action: the drama of 
Raskolnikov. He is drawn with extraordinary imaginative power. 
Dostoevsky's avowed intention was to champion the ethics that holds 
inviolate every human soul as divine in origin and of infinite worth. 
Yet he presents with considerable persuasiveness Raskolnikov's idea, 
which argues relativity of good and evil and anticipates Nietzsche's 
doctrine of the superman. He plays the devil's advocate too ably 
not to have had some lurking sympathy for the devil's viewpoint. A 
preliminary note for the novel is illuminating. In response to the 
detective's reference to the moral law binding upon all, Raskolni- 
kov says: "Well, but suppose conscience doesn't accuse me — 1 seize 
authority, I get power, whether money or might — not for evil. I 
bring happiness. Well, and because of a miserable fence, to stand 
and look over it, to envy, to hate and yet to stand still. That's base!" 
On the margin opposite this jotting Dostoevsky scribbled: "Devil 
take it! He's partly right." 

Indeed, right and wrong are not neatly docketed and pigeon- 
holed in this novel. They are allowed to merge into each other and 
become their opposites. The author is plainly partial to the extrem- 
ist, the one who goes the limit whether in good or in evil. It is the 
Laodicean, middle-of-the-road temperament that he abominates. 
The one wholly repulsive character in the novel is not the murderer, 
or that lost soul, Svidrigailov — before he makes his exit he gives 
evidence of a generous humanity — nor yet those whom Luzhin de- 
nounces as "unbelievers, agitators and atheists," but rather that 
comfortably circumstanced, self-important, meanly prudent man 
himself. __ 

Raskolniko vXstory affects the rpaHpr,_IiJc^-.a-r^>PPM:a^Q^^n artuRl 
experience, made by a man labouring under the mmp nk;o[^n_rp- 
live it i n all its poignan cy. Every movement of the murderer's bod v 
and rnind, every detail in the interplay between his physical sensa- 
tions and his psychi c staJesT tHe^lluusnng" and dodging in the du el 
between hi jnjTjdJhe detec tive — all that is set down with comple te 
authority. Hence the effec tiveness of the book. One suffers, thin ks^ 
feels, dreams, with Raskolnikov. Vicariously the reader commits 



the crime and endures the p unishment. Without having to pay 
Raskolnikov's price, he, too, achieves some modicum of grace. One 
recalls Freud's in timation that to Do stoevsky the criminal was 
a lmost a sav iour, who by his act frees his fellows from the necessity 
of obeying the m urderous urge common to th e children of Adam .* 
Be that as it may, the novelist's sympathy with Raskolnikov seems 
to go beyond an author's indentification with his hero. It may be 
asked why Raskolnikov chose this bloody way of breaking through 
from the underground to "living life." Does the clue perhaps lie 
in the character of his creator? It is possible that through this fiction 
and several that were to follow, Dostoevsky was projecting obscure 
criminal impulses stronger than flesh is generally heir to? The close 
relation between epilepsy and crime is said to be a matter of statis- 
tical record. At all events, the inwardness with which Raskolnikov's 
feelings after the crime are depicted probably owes much to the 
sense of guilt that was the deep undercurrent of Dostoevsky's 
emotional life. If unconsciously he craved punishment, he must 
have been satisfied in no small measure by the ordeal of setting 
down Raskolnikov's experience so unflinchingly. 

*A noted psychologist testifies to the novel's extraordinary power by 
citing the case of an obdurate murderer who became accessible to repent- 
ance "under the overwhelming influence of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punish- 
ment." (Theodore Reik. Gestdndniszwang und Strafbcdiirfuis, Leipzig, 1925, 
p. 116). 


THE LONG months devoted to the writing of Crime and Punish- 
ment held for Dostoevsky, in addition to the usual burden 
of money worries, ill health, and loneliness, yet another cause 
for vexation: the novel he had contracted to deliver to the robber 
Stellovsky. It will be recalled that it was due November 1, 1866. He 
pleaded for an extension of time; he begged Stellovsky to take a 
promissory note instead of the manuscript, but the man was ada- 
mant. He would have his pound of flesh. And how could Dostoev- 
sky wrench himself away from the work which was then wholly 
absorbing him? But there was something attractive about perform- 
ing the impossible. He would write two novels at once: to one he 
would give his mornings, to the other his nights. Was there ever 
a writer who worked like that? The mere idea would kill Turgenev. 
Not that Dostoevsky acted on this notion. By July he had no more 
than a plan for the piece, and the wretched business v/as spoiling 
his waking hours and haunting his dreams. October first came and 
went, and not a line was written. A little group of his friends sug- 
gested that he farm out the novel among them. But he wouldn't con- 
sider it. He did, however, fall in with the extraordinary suggestion 
that he hire a stenographer and dictate the story. He began dictating 
the evening of October 4, and in twenty-six days the novel was 
completed and Dostoevsky 's part of the contract fulfilled. 

He originally called the story Roidettenburg, but, at the instance 
of the publisher, changed the title to The Gambler. It is probable 
that he did some work on it before those hectic October weeks. 
Certainly he had had the subject in mind for a long time, perhaps 
ever since he had first haunted the tables. In September, 1863, while 
he was travelling with Polina, he wrote down on little scraps of 
paper a sketch for a story about a Russian living abroad who 
wandered from one gambling resort to another, completely possessed 



by a mania for roulette. He hoped to repeat his success with The 
House of the Dead by a description of another kind of hell that he 
also knew intimately. The hero is a cultivated person, but, as Dosto- 
evsky put it, "half-baked in every way, a man who has lost his faith, 
but dares not disbelieve, a man rebelling against the authorities, yet 
fearing them. He comforts himself by saying that he has nothing to 
do in Russia and he excoriates those who summon our expatriates 
back home. . . ." The novelist also saw the story as an opportunity 
to set forth his observations on his countrymen abroad — a topic 
then widely discussed in the press. This tale of a gambler was the 
subject he seized upon when, three years later, he found himself 
in need of a theme that could be worked up quickly and at no 
great length. 

The rather limited space at his disposal did not prevent him from 
burdening himself with a fairly complicated plot and a number of 
characters. The setting afforded him a welcome chance to spill his 
venom upon the French, polished and hollow, and the Germans, 
grasping and dull. His mouthpiece is his protagonist, Alexey Ivano- 
vich, a young man employed as a tutor by a Russian family living 
in "Roulettenburg." Probably because he wrote in such haste, this 
central character is not sufficiently elaborated, while the jemme 
fatale who is the heroine of the story remains something of an 
enigma, her behaviour subject to various interpretations. At least 
one of the secondary characters, notably the wealthy old babushka 
upon whose death the family's prospects wholly depend, is superbly 

Greed and lust dominate these pages. The leading theme is the 
tutor's passion for his employer's step-daughter, significantly 
named, Polina, who is involved with two suitors, a rich English 
industrialist, and a titled French bounder, her lover at the time. It 
is an exasperated, sado-masochistic feeling compounded of love 
and hate. The tutor sees the erotic relationship and the sensual 
pleasure it involves as dependent on the slavery and abasement of 
one partner and the complete domination of the other. He has some- 
thing to say about both aspects, on one occasion echoing a line from 
The House of the Dead, thus: "A human being is a despot by 
nature, and loves to be a torturer." Dostoevsky will keep coming 
back to this ambiguous emotion, the odi et amo of Catullus, in his 


later writings, and perhaps present it more subtly but never in 
firmer outline. 

Just as the gaming tables figured in his curious journey with 
PoHna Suslova, so here too Dostoevsky links love with gambling, 
intimating, as it were, a hidden connection between the two. In the 
story, Polina's French suitor and lover, casting her off, outrages her 
by an indirect gift of fifty thousand francs. She had always shown 
the tutor contempt and sometimes hatred, and had appeared not 
to prize her limitless power over him. Now she goes to his hotel 
room, resolved to give herself to him. Does she hope to wipe out 
the affront to her pride by thus proving to herself that she is not to 
be bought? Here as throughout her behaviour leaves room for spec- 
ulation. She lets the tutor read the Frenchman's insulting letter, and, 
in a frenzy, he leaves her in his room and rushes off to the tables, 
ecstatic with absolute self-confidence. He will win fifty thousand 
francs, and Polina can throw them in the face of the despicable 
Frenchman. He returns in an hour with four times that sum. While 
he was making his phenomenal kill, the woman for whose sake he 
was playing was obliterated from his mind by the excitement of the 
game. Memories of that excitement, flooding in upon him after his 
return to her, momentarily make him forget her presence. The two 
spend the night together. 

Morning brings a revulsion of feeling on her part. She demands 
the fifty thousand francs as her pay, flings them in his face and 
leaves him. One thinks of the scene in which the protagonist of 
* 'Notes from the Underground" turns on the prostitute when he 
realizes that their relative positions have been reversed. Having 
lost Polina, the tutor squanders his fortune with a cocotte in Paris 
and returns to the tables as if blindly seeking to recapture the great 
moment when he had brought both chance and the inaccessible 
lady to their knees. He becomes utterly and hopelessly a slave to 
roulette. Not even the knowledge that Polina loved him all along 
and still loves him after a lapse of two years can save him from his 
obsession. That knowledge, which is disclosed at the end of the 
tale, comes as a surprise to the reader as well as to the tutor. The 
theory has been advanced by an American critic that the idea of the 
novel is the connection between the protagonist's failure as a lover 
and his fatal shortcomings as a spiritual being, one lost between 


belief and disbelief, a man suffering from * 'metaphysical impo- 
tence;" but if Dostoevsky intended to bring this home to his public, 
he failed to do so. 

When his stenographer expressed her scorn for the gambler, the 
author took his part. He assured her that '*many of the young man's 
feelings and impressions had been his own.'* Indeed, his own ex- 
periences, especially his affair with Polina Suslova, are plainly re- 
flected in The Gambler. He was to know more of the gambler's hell 
in the years to come. In this respect the story was not a farewell to 
the past, but rather an anticipation of the future. 


Dostoevsky scarcely saw the girl who walked into his study that 
bright October morning to take dictation on The Gambler. He 
talked of this and that, unable to get down to work, and finally 
declared that he could dictate nothing then and that she must come 
back in the evening. He was glad at least that the stenographer was 
a woman: a man would have been sure to go off on a spree sooner 
or later. In the evening he continued to put off the unfamiliar busi- 
ness of dictating, but managed to get the novel started, and arranged 
for her to return the next day. 

She was late. He was in a panic. He had forgotten her name and 
had failed to take down her address. He knew he had been difficult. 
Perhaps she would not show up at all. But she did, full of apologies 
for the extra half hour she had taken to make a handsome copy of 
what he had dictated and for the next several weeks the efficient, 
imperturbable creature, looking the graver in her neat mourning, 
appeared regularly and punctually. 

It had taken some courage for her to return. She had been so 
elated over this first job of hers, more especially since her employer 
was to be the celebrated author whose name had often been on her late 
father's lips, and who was the object of her girlish adoration. And 
her first impression had been so painful. His flat was shabby and 
gloomy, and he himself looked old, ill, and queer, with his odd eyes, 
the pupil of the right one dilated with atropine (he had injured it 
during an attack). And he behaved strangely. He was nervous, irrit- 
able, abrupt. He kept forgetting her name. He smoked continuously 


and repeatedly offered her cigarettes, though she had said she 
thought the habit unwomanly. Almost directly on seeing her he had 
told her that he was an epileptic and had had a fit only recently. In 
the evening he showed an even greater lack of reserve, describing to 
this stranger, among other things, his sensations as he stood on the 
scaffold on Semyonov Square waiting to be executed. When she left 
him at the end of that first day, her disappointment and bewilder- 
ment were tinged with pity for a man obviously lonely and unhappy. 

As the days went by, Dostoevsky found dictation less of a strain. 
Decidedly the little stenographer suited him. She showed herself 
not merely self-effacing and methodical, but heartily interested in 
the work. His friends offered advice, reproached him for having 
entered into this arrangement with the cursed Stellovsky, commiser- 
ated with him in his predicament. Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina — 
he did learn her name at last — was helping him out of it. The pile 
of manuscript was growing daily. She kept assuring him that they 
would finish the thing in time, and it actually looked as though she 
were right. He came to take comfort in his contacts with this 
demure, dependable, cheerful girl. If she was plain, she had — it 
eventually dawned on him — pretty grey eyes and a pleasant smile. 
If her judgments were naive and shallow, she took the book 
seriously. Fictive characters were real to her. Indeed, her first love 
had been the hero of his Insulted and Injured. When she confessed 
this to Dostoevsky, he said that he had only the vaguest recollection 
of what the novel was all about, and promised to reread it. 

While they sipped tea or munched pears out of a paper bag, he 
would unburden himself to this sympathetic listener. He complained 
about his money troubles— she had seen for herself the table set 
with wooden spoons when the silver was at the pawnbroker's — he 
reminisced, he told her about his luckless affair with Anna Korvin- 
Krukovskaya, he showed her his late wife's portrait, a gloomy one, 
made the year before she died. But Polina Suslova was scarcely 
mentioned. His happy moments? He had none to tell her about, 
and yet . . . he still hoped for happiness. In time he made a habit 
of recounting to her where he had been and what he had done while 
they were apart. On one occasion he told her that there were three 
ways open to him: to settle in Constantinople or Jerusalem, to go 


abroad and give himself up to roulette, or else to get married. What 
should he do? Would any woman have him? Of course, the girl 
answered, and marriage was the step for him to take. 

Gradually he learned some things about her — she had lost her 
awe, and spoke to him as to an uncle. She was only twenty. Her 
father, a civil servant with a taste for literature, the theatre and old 
china, had died in the spring, leaving in modest but comfortable 
circumstances a family consisting of her mother, who was of Swed- 
ish descent, herself, a married sister, and a brother, now a student 
at an agricultural college. She had taken up shorthand not so much 
because she needed to earn her living as because, like many a young 
miss in the sixties, she wanted to be independent. She was a girl of 
the period also in her objections to having her hand kissed and 
being helped out of a cab, but her unconventionality stopped there. 
She neither bobbed her hair nor affected spectacles; she was a re- 
spectful daughter and an observant Christian. She had two suitors, 
she told Dostoevsky, but intended to accept neither — she would 
wait until she could marry for love. 

He caught himself thinking of her ever so often. As their sessions 
drew to an end, the idea that he would no longer see her regularly 
filled him with regret, and it was plain that the prospect of parting 
distressed her. She had received his confidences with such a friendly, 
even a motherly, air. She had taken his occasional brusqueness with 
perfect good nature. She was eager to come and so sorry 
to go away. A man did not have to be a novelist to see how it 
was with her. Perhaps that way some makeshift happiness awaited 

It was his forty-fifth birthday, October 30, when she brought 
him the clean copy of the last instalment. The sight of her, looking 
taller and more graceful than usual in a long lilac silk dress she had 
put on in honour of the occasion, brought a flush to his cheeks. His 
pleasure in the visit was, however, abruptly checked by the entrance 
of Emilia Fyodorovna, who either out of arrogance or because of an 
intuitive grasp of the danger to herself in the situation, chose to 
snub the little stenographer. He was mortified and, finding that he 
could not persuade the girl to remain, saw her to the door and 
pressed her to name the day when he might call at her home. 

He came, as appointed, four evenings later, met her good mother. 


to whom he tried to be attentive, and found Anna Grigoryevna her- 
self more responsive than ever. He told them that within a week he 
was going to start work on the last part of Crime and Punishment , 
and in that connection he would want her services again. Three days 
later — it was Sunday — he paid a second call, this time uninvited. 
Before he left, she promised to come on Tuesday to arrange for the 

On Monday night Dostoevsky had a dream. He was rummaging 
among the papers in an old rosewood box, given to him in his 
Siberian days, in which he kept manuscripts, letters, and objects 
that had a sentimental value for him, when he noticed something 
twinkling and vanishing among them. The thing caught his atten- 
tion, and he went after it. It proved to be a small, sparkling 
diamond. When he awoke he could not recall what he had done with 
it, but he felt that the dream was of good omen. Wasn't he at last 
going to come upon a tiny brilliant that would light his days? He 
was still under the spell of his dream when Anna Grigoryevna came 
in, a little tardily, from the bright frosty street, and he told her about 
it at once. On her remarking that dreams went by contraries, his 
mood dropped. But with her usual tact, she tried to cheer him up 
and began asking him what he had been doing since she had seen 
him last. 

He had been busy, he said, with the plot of a new novel. The end, 
which hinged upon the psychology of a young girl, somehow eluded 
him, and she must help him with it. He went on to outline a story 
which even her modest intelligence easily discerned to be a disguised 
version of his autobiography. It had to do with an artist, unsuccess- 
ful, ill, lonely, burdened with debts and responsibilities, who had 
fallen in love with a girl less than half his age. So as not to call her 
the heroine, he called her Anna, "a lovely name," he observed, 
although on a previous occasion he had said that he disliked it, 
having found all Annas dry, reserved creatures. This Anna was 
gentle, sensible, and cheerful — not a beauty but not bad-looking 
either. The oftener the artist saw her, the more convinced he grew 
that she would make his happiness. Did Anna Grigoryevna think 
it psychologically possible that such a girl could return the love of 
such a man? Of course it was possible, she asserted hotly. He bade 
her, in a voice that shook, put herself in the girl's place and him in 


the hero's, and imagine that he had asked her to be his wife: what 

would she say? 

"I should answer that I loved you and would love you all my 


Anna's mother made no objection to the match. The groom's 
relatives, however, behaved quite differently. When Pasha heard the 
news — they were able to keep the engagement secret only a week — 
he came to his stepfather's study and made a scene. He was aston- 
ished and outraged, he stormed, not to have been consulted in a 
matter which touched him so nearly. He reminded Dostoevsky that 
he was too old a man to think of beginning life over again, and, 
besides, he had other duties and responsibilities. Nor did Emilia 
Fyodorovna and the other relatives conceal their disapproval. In- 
deed, they went so far as to try and frighten the young fiancee out 
of the marriage by malicious gibes and hints. And there were some 
among Dostoevsky 's friends who, for disinterested reasons, warned 
him against this rash step. But his determination remained un- 

Not that the twenty-five years' difference between him and his 
betrothed failed to weigh upon him. He even teased himself, and 
her, too, by impersonating the would-be-youthful senile ruin of a 
man from his story, "Uncle's Dream." Anna did her best to quiet 
him on this score, promising him to age quickly, and trying, by her 
dress and demeanour, to appear older than her years. As for him, 
he acted the part of the conventional fiance, calling on her every 
night, bringing her sweets from Ballet, taking her, on one extrava- 
gant occasion, to the theatre. Yet he had his misgivings, tinged, 
doubtless, with self-contemplative irony. 

What with the distraction incident to his matrimonial project, 
Dostoevsky let Crime and Punishment ride. At the end of November 
it suddenly dawned on him that the instalment of the novel for the 
month's issue of Russy vestnik was still unwritten. As the magazine 
regularly appeared a month late, the delay was not fatal. With 
characteristic firmness, Anna, who from the first regarded herself 
as his helpmeet in every sense of the word, took matters in hand. 


He must lock himself in every day from two to five and work, and 
when he came to her in the evening, dictate the final version. In this 
fashion the last part and the epilogue were completed in reasonably 
good time. This part includes the scene between Svidrigailov and 
Raskolnikov, in which the middle-aged roue gloats over his com- 
ing marriage to a sixteen-year-old girl, whereupon the young man 
observes: "The fact is this monstrous difference in age and develop- 
ment excites your sensuality! Will you really make such a mar- 
riage?" One wonders what Dostoevsky felt as he dictated this pas- 
sage to his prospective young bride. 

Christmas he spent with his sister Vera and her family in Moscow. 
The great news had not reached them yet. He confided it first to his 
favourite, Sonia, who rejoiced at it. Then he told Vera and the 
others. The sister-in-law to whom she had hoped eventually to 
marry him off was there, apparently no nearer to widowhood than 
before and more unhappy than ever, but holding nothing against 
Dostoevsky, which rather relieved him. Among the giggling girls 
was the vivacious young thing who had rejected him the previous 
Easter. The house was full as usual, everybody wished him well, 
and on New Year's Eve at midnight the head of the family raised 
his champagne glass in a toast to the newly affianced pair. But in 
spite of the good will and general gaiety, there were often times 
when he was the victim of an unaccountable gloom — the familiar 
oppressive feeling like the consciousness of having committed a 

The purpose of his Moscow visit was to see his publisher. He 
wanted Katkov to give him a substantial advance on his next novel. 
Indeed, without it, they would have to postpone the wedding. On 
January 2, 1867, he was able to write his "priceless and eternal 
friend, Anya" the good news that Katkov had proved obliging: he 
had advanced one thousand roubles, promising another thousand 
within two months, so that nothing stood in the way of their union. 

As soon as he got home, however, the money began to melt away 
so rapidly that only by placing part of it in Anna's hands for safe- 
keeping could he be sure of the wedding expenses. Preparations for 
the event were begun at once. Anna was if anything the more eager 
of the two: she could scarcely wait for the time when she would be 
entitled to take such care of him as she felt he needed. Once thev 


were married, his fur coat would not be pawned to help his relatives- 
in-law, as had happened during the courtship. With her modest 
dowry she assembled a trousseau that he insisted on seeing as it 
came from the dressmaker's. With the same money she furnished 
the new home — they rented a five-room flat in the neighbourhood 
of his old apartment, which he turned over to Emilia Fyodorovna 
and her family. On the fifteenth of February, the very month of his 
first wedding, Dostoevsky went through the marriage ceremony 
for the second time. 

The marriage was solemnized in the Trinity (Izmailovsky) 
Cathedral at seven o'clock in the evening. They could not afford 
a wedding trip, but Dostoevsky invited the company to the new 
apartment, where champagne flowed freely until midnight struck 
the signal for the guests to leave the couple alone. 

Whether or not Dostoevsky remembered the violent attack that 
had followed quickly upon his first wedding-day, he must have 
wondered nervously how soon his young bride would see him in a 
fit for the first time. They were married about a week when he had 
a sudden severe attack during an evening they were spending at 
her sister's house. His first wife, on a similar occasion, had been 
terribly frightened. Anna was made of different stuff. Her sister went 
into hysterics, and the rest of the household devoted itself to her. 
But the bride kept her presence of mind. She held his head on her 
knees all through the convulsions and did not break down even 
when he had a second and worse seizure an hour after recovering 
from the first one. The ordeal of that night, with no one to help 
while he lay screaming with pain or muttering Hke a man out of 
his mind, tried Anna and found her not wanting. Even in the evil 
mood that followed the fit he must have recognized that he had 
married a woman whose strength was equal to her devotion. Before 
he had ever proposed to her, he had asked her whether, if he 
married again, he should choose a kind or a clever woman. For 
himself, he thought it should be a kind one, so that she might love 
and pity him. He could not hide from himself that, at bottom, that 
was his reason for marrying Anna. The time was over now for the 
storms of passion that marked his relations with Polina Suslova. He 
was seeking a safe haven. With this girl, who respected him as she 


would her father, and pitied him as she would her child, he would 
find it. It was not a step to be particularly proud of, but there it 


The first few weeks of married life were a period of relative peace, 
in spite of the alarming frequency of his attacks. The public that 
not so long ago had relished Turgenev's Fathers and Children, and 
was even now being regaled with the first part of Tolstoy's War a.nd 
Peace, was going mad over Crime and Punishment. The novel had 
brought the magazine five hund^^ed new subscribers and was immed- 
iately published in book form. Dostoevsky had not yet embarked 
on any fresh venture, and meanwhile he was free to savour his new 
life and discover what leisure was like. Now he had a companion 
on his walks. On one of them he led Anna into a deserted court- 
yard he had described in Crime and Punishment, and showed her, 
off in a corner, the stone under which Raskolnikov had buried his 

He was glad to see that Pasha was attentive to his young step- 
mother; indeed, it looked as though her presence had a refining 
influence upon the boy. Emilia Fyodorovna was giving Anna the 
advice of an experienced housewife. The nieces and nephews who 
used to pay him stiff, infrequent visits were now running in at all 
hours and often staying for meals. This was just the companion- 
ship Anna needed. True, with all the entertaining, expenses were 
mounting. Besides, the constant stream of guests was rather tire- 
some and quite put a stop to those long intimate hours he had en- 
joyed with Anna before they were married. 

One night he returned home from a visit to the Maikovs and 
found the house dark and Anna lying in bed and crying. But why? 
What had happened? Between sobs the story came out. She couldn't 
stand it any longer. She had done her best, but it was useless. Life 
in his house was no longer endurable for her. Emilia Fyodorovna 
kept loading her with admonitions and drawing invidious compari- 
sons between her and Pasha's late mother. But it was chiefly Pasha 
who was making things impossible for her. He was continually 
heaping insults on her. He made fun of her housekeeping in front 
of guests, when it was he himself who, out of sheer spite, had 


emptied the cream-jug before his father's breakfast, made off with 
the matches, sent the maid on a wild-goose chase, so that she didn't 
have time to dust the study. That very morning he had told her that 
his father had made a mistake in marrying her, that she was a poor 
housekeeper, that she spent too much of the family's money, that 
his father's attacks were getting worse all on her account. And 
wasn't Pasha setting her husband against her? Fyodor scarcely 
talked to her any more. Indeed, when they were together, with this 
crowd of silly young people filling the house? He couldn't have 
cared, this master psychologist, this seer into the human heart, if he 
hadn't noticed what they were doing to her! 

Dostoevsky listened to this outburst in amazement. It had never 
entered his head that things were at such a pass. He assured Anna 
that he loved her as deeply as ever, but the more he comforted her, 
the more freely her tears flowed. When she was finally quiet again, 
he told her that he had been thinking of going to Moscow. Now he 
would surely do so and take her with him. He would persuade 
Katkov to give him an additional advance, and they would go 
abroad on the money. Hadn't that been one of their dreams? 

Two days later he was introducing his bride to his sister Vera 
and her family. He noticed that the young people, with the possible 
exception of Sonia, received Anna somewhat coldly. The truth was 
they were cross with her for having upset their plans for marrying 
off this favourite uncle to their favourite aunt, Yelena Pavlovna, 
as soon as she should become a widow. The ice was broken, amus- 
ingly enough, by the very girl who had rejected Dostoevsky's suit 
the previous spring. Before the Moscow visit was over, Anna was 
on good terms with the whole household, and if he had ever doubted 
the strength of his affection for her, he now proved it by finding 
himself an excessively jealous husband. They left the city, feeling 
that the week they had spent there had been their real honeymoon 
and carrying with them a thousand roubles from Katkov. The trip 
abroad seemed assured. 

Of course, both Pasha and Emilia Fyodorovna set their faces 
against such an extravagance. What would they live on while the 
couple were making a summer's jaunt? Besides, there were the 
creditors. The seven thousand roubles he had received for the sepa- 
rate edition of Crime and Punishment had gone into their pockets. 


But this only whetted their appetite. Again they were threatening 
to attach the household effects and put Dostoevsky in debtor's 
prison. It occurred to him that this last might not be so bad. It 
might even give him the stuff for another House of the Dead and 
bring in four or five thousand roubles. But, of course, even if there 
were not Anna to consider, he might not be able to write in the 
stuffy cell during the hot summer months. Europe offered itself 
as a refuge. He needed a trip abroad for his health: he was in a state 
of intolerable nervous tension. And yet the more he thought of it, 
the more he felt that under the circumstances, the journey was out 
of the question. Emilia's notion of their taking a house in the 
country together, with her to spare Anna the trouble of house- 
keeping, was not so bad. They would stay home; Anna would adjust 
herself; everything would be all right. 

Two days after they came home — he had already decided to 
abandon the trip — Anna took a walk with him. At her suggestion, 
they stepped into a chapel to say a prayer before the icon of the 
Virgin. And then, after some little hesitation, she drew for him a 
fresh picture of her situation. They must have at least a month or 
two of peace together, she pleaded. Their married life was at stake. 
If she was to be constantly at the mercy of Pasha and Emilia Fyodor- 
ovna, a separation was inevitable. They must go abroad to save their 
happiness. Didn't he see it? She broke into tears on the street. If 
she had but a taste of undisturbed comradeship with him, their 
union would grow strong enough to withstand strains and shocks. 
Money? There was the new furniture, the piano, the silver, her 
jewellery, and some securities of hers, too. If they pawned it all, 
there would be enough for the trip and something for Pasha and 
Emilia Fyodorovna to live on, as well. She had spoken to her 
mother, who had approved the plan. Her tears were her strongest 
argument. Before Dostoevsky had done comforting her, he agreed 
to her scheme. They went at once to apply for a passport. Here was 
a woman of action. Three days later, on April 14, at five o'clock in 
the afternoon, they entrained for Berlin. 



^FTER a day or two in Berlin, where Dostoevsky enjoyed a 
L\ Russian bath, the couple settled in Dresden in a furnished 
1. Vflat of three rooms. Why Dresden? It didn't really matter 
to him where he was. At any rate, now they were completely alone: 
there was no one to interfere with their privacy, no one to sow 
dissension between them. Yet it was not an idyllic existence. Even 
when he did not have one of his frequent attacks, he would be 
likely to wake up in an ugly mood. There were days when nothing 
pleased him; he grumbled at the food, at the landscape, at the lay- 
out of the streets. The Germans annoyed him intensely. The attrac- 
tions of the city — the open-air concerts, the galleries — gave him 
only shallow satisfaction. They had practically nowhere else to go 
except to the post office, where they were always being disappointed, 
and to the library, where there were a few musty Russian books. 
The pair quarrelled perpetually: over her soiled gloves, over the 
sunset, over the right way to handle an umbrella, over the brewing 
of a cup of tea. He would scream at her; she would tremble with 
rage. He had always thought, he said, that a wife was her husband's 
natural enemy. But they made up. Their fallings-out were of the 
kind that all the more endears. There were, too, many moments of 
jollity and intimate companionship, particularly in the small hours 
of the morning when, after a night's work, he would wake her to say 
a lingering good night. 

The precarious conjugal peace was sometimes shaken by gusts of 
jealousy. Anna had reason to be anxious. Her husband's affair with 
Polina Suslova had not remained a secret to her, and in Dresden 
she discovered that he was keeping up a correspondence with the 
woman. Finding a letter from Polina on his table, she read it with 
the unscrupulousness characteristic of her where her affections were 
concerned, and was thrown into a storm of jealous tears. 



She would have been even more enraged had she seen his answer 
which he penned almost as soon as they were settled. Polina knew 
nothing of his marriage, and Dostoevsky was under the necessity 
of breaking the news to her. He did so in a manner that was slightly 
apologetic. When he had finished dictating The Gambler, he wrote 
he noticed that his stenographer, *'a young and rather attractive 
girl . . . had fallen sincerely in love" with him, and for his part, he 
"liked her more and more." His brother's death had left him de- 
pressed and lonely, and so he had proposed to her. In spite of the 
frightful difference in their years, he was increasingly convinced that 
she would be happy: "She has a heart and is capable of love." Then 
he broke off abruptly to discuss his financial situation, but closed 
on a personal note, addressing Polina in the words he had used in 
writing to his fiancee from Moscow, as his "eternal friend." He 
knew that it was diflScult for her to be happy: "Oh, darling, it is not 
to a cheap, necessary happiness that I invite you. I respect you, and 
always did, for your exacting nature, but how well I know that 
your heart cannot help demanding much from life, and people seem 
to you either infinitely shining or else utter scoundrels and vulgar- 

Cheap happiness, a makeshift, a compromise — was that what he 
had achieved? Polina would have lifted him to the heights and cast 
him down into the depths. Anna, the kind one, seemed capable of 
giving him the tenderness, the comfort, the protection that were 
necessary to a man broken by years of suffering — but that was all. 
This must have been one of those moments when a vague shame, a 
slight rebellion crossed his contentment. 

Polina's reply to Dostoevsky's letter arriving ten days later, in 
his absence, Anna again did not scruple to open it, read it, and seal 
it up. She had the bitter satisfaction of seeing how he received it. 
He took a long time over the first page and, as he went on reading, 
his face flushed and his hands trembled. She pretended to think the 
letter came from his niece and asked for news, but he said briefly 
that it was not from Sonia, and smiled forlornly. He was absent- 
minded the rest of the evening and could hardly grasp anything his 
wife said to him. The next morning he reread the letter, pacing up 
and down the room as though looking for something he had lost, 
and for days afterwards he was out of temper. 


Anna had, however, nothing further to fear from her husband's 
former mistress. Late in May there was another letter from PoHna, 
apparently the last one. She is known to have opened a village school 
the following year, but the authorities closed it on the grounds that 
she bobbed her hair, wore blue glasses, and never went to church. 
In a police report dated 1868, she was accused of having "close 
relations with persons abroad hostile to the government." Later 
she tried her hand at literary work, translating a biography of Ben- 
jamin Franklin — she had long been interested in America — and for 
a while she attended the first university courses in Russia thrown 
open to women. In middle life she married a man many years her 
junior. An ardent admirer of Dostoevsky, this Vasily Rozanov in 
time wrote commentaries on the novelist and composed other mis- 
cellaneous works in a mystical and retrograde vein. Before long 
Polina left him. It is said that she fell in love with a student, who 
spurned her, whereupon she denounced him to the police as a 
revolutionary. Perhaps she had already undergone the change of 
heart which eventually landed her in the camp of black reaction. 
According to another report, she drove a foster-child to suicide. In 
The Insulted and Injured Rozanov found a description of a woman 
that, he declared, fitted Polina perfectly: Prince Valkovsky's sketch 
of an ostensibly cold and unapproachable beauty who secretly 
savoured a depravity so monstrous that she could have given lessons 
to Marquis de Sade. He also likened her to the instigator of the 
Massacre of St. Bartholomew. Her father spoke of her in less liter- 
ary terms as a she-devil. 

These characterizations help to support the impression that she 
contributed something to the creation of those sinful, passionate 
women who figure in Dostoevsky's major novels. It seems, too, that 
the lacerations these two inflicted upon each other helped to shape 
the novelist's conception of "the great constringent relation" be- 
tween the sexes. His daughter, an unreliable witness, recounts how 
one day in the late seventies a veiled woman clad in black came 
to see the novelist, refusing to give her name, and, in answer to his 
query as to her reason for coming, simply threw back her veil and 
looked at him. Dostoevsky stared at her without a flicker of recog- 
nition, and only after she had swept out of the room in mute pride 


it flashed upon him that this woman whom he had failed to recog- 
nize was Polina. Perhaps it was precisely by stepping out of his life 
that she made so firm a place for herself in his art. 


The couple had scarcely been a week in Dresden when Dostoev- 
sky began to get restless. He was idle, he was bored, he was getting 
fat! He stood it another week, and then he succumbed to the old 
fever, taking the train for Homburg and the tables. He had to spend 
several hours at the Leipzig station, and as he paced the huge wait- 
ing room full of smoke and the smell of beer he asked himself how 
he could have left his young, innocent, patient angel alone and 
friendless in a strange town, while he was going . . . where? On what 
fool's errand? It was sheer madness. The reason that offered itself 
readily was the money he hoped to win, the money he needed to 
live on, the money with which he must pay off his creditors. On pre- 
vious trips abroad he had offered a similar excuse for his gambling. 
But the author of The Gambler must have understood that it was 
not hope of gain alone that was sending him to the tables. At the 
moment he was not in urgent need, though his funds were low. He 
may well have been driven by the desire to challenge fate, by the 
craving for risk, and for the anguish, the humiliation that such an 
experience held for him. 

He intended to stay away no more than four days. They stretched 
out into ten. He still firmly believed in his "system": if you keep 
cool and calculate your moves, you are bound to win. The trouble 
was that he couldn't keep cool for more than half an hour at a time, 
and yet he did not leave the tables for longer than it took to smoke 
a cigarette. Gambling was never meant for a nervous man like him- 
self. And so in the end he always lost. Oh, it was vile, sordid, con- 
temptible! But he needed this fever. His nerves were ragged with the 
excitement, and he was tired from sitting still so much, but his 
health was excellent and there was no thought of an attack. 

Every day he poured out his hopes and fears to Anna in a letter 
full of self-reproach and affection. God had given her to him that 
he might expiate his enormous sins by guarding and preserving this 
young soul in all its purity, and now perhaps he was injuring it 


irreparably. But she must continue to love him. Only now that he 
was away from her he realized how he loved her; they were be- 
coming truly one. When he was with her he hid his tenderness under 
sullenness and irritability, but that was his wretched character- 
Would she ever forgive him all the torture he had caused her? And 
how could she ever respect him again? He had appealed to her for 
the fare home and had immediately gambled it away. She must 
send him another remittance, but she mustn't dream of coming to 
fetch him. Sudi want of confidence would kill him. 

As soon as he received the money, he went back to her, having 
wasted the staggering sum of three hundred and fifty roubles and 
left his watch in the hands of a Homburg pawnbroker. 

Anna received him without a word of reproach, and they settled 
into a placid, if somewhat dismal, routine. They looked in at the 
post office, they went to the library, they roamed through the 
museums, they stopped for a cup of coffee and an ice or for a try at 
the shooting gallery. After dinner they strolled in the gardens and 
listened to the orchestra; in the evening he read or tried to work: 
he was then busy setting down his reminiscences of Belinsky, but 
with little success. Meanwhile she was assiduously filling her note- 
books with mysterious hooks and dashes. What could she be 
writing there? She refused to tell him. She had promised her mother, 
from whom she was absent for the first time and for whom she was 
frightfully homesick, to write down every detail of her life abroad. 
And so she was doing this, as she did everything, dutifully, patiently, 
with an unmitigated interest in trifles and a total lack of discrim- 
ination. She recorded the changes in the weather and in Fyodor's 
moods, his quarrels with waiters, librarians, and post-office clerks — 
German words, which ordinarily failed him, came in a flood when 
he was furious. She retailed his frequent absurd quarrels with her, 
their reconciliations, and the exchanges of loverly nonsense that 
lightened their dull existence and made her supremely happy. She 
listed everything each of them had to eat and drink and never 
omitted to mention the exact cost of everything they bought and 
some things they didn't buy, and how the price compared with the 
price of the same items at home. 

One night early in June she had something important to tell him: 
she suspected she was pregnant. They both rejoiced when the sus 


picion became a certainty. If it were a girl, they would call her 
Sonia, for the heroine of Crime and Punishment, and his favourite 
niece; they rather hoped for a boy — then there would be no need 
for a dowry, and in that case they would of course call him Mikhail. 
Now there was something pleasant to tease her about, and a new 
source of worry. It looked as though they would have to stay abroad 
much longer than they had originally intended, a good deal to 
Anna's relief, since, however home-sick for her mother she might 
be, she dreaded the return to Petersburg, where she would again 
be at the mercy of her relatives-in-law. 

But what would they live on? And what would become of Pasha 
and Emilia Fyodorovna and her children? The money they had 
taken with them was rapidly melting away, and there was not a 
word from Katkov, to whom Dostoevsky had written for an 
additional five hundred roubles just after the Homburg disaster. 
Moreover, toward the end of their Dresden stay he had a most 
alarming experience. In the state of irritability which always 
followed one of his seizures he had a tiff with a clerk at the Rus- 
sian consulate, and in the midst of it he had a hallucination: Mik- 
hail suddenly appeared, head and shoulders, in the doorway. Was 
he going mad? As he looked back upon the weeks just before he left 
Russia, it seemed to him that he had then been in a state verging on 
insanity. Now, at least, his attacks were less frequent. 

Homburg had cured him completely of his gambling fever. 
Dostoevsky thought. He had really benefited by the adventure. The 
lesson was cheap at the price. But the day after writing this to Anna 
he made up his mind that his great mistake had been in not taking 
her with him: then he would have been mentally at ease and able 
to take advantage of his system. Back in Dresden this idea grew 
upon him: the thing for them to do at the first opportunity was to 
go together to some gambling resort for an extended stay. Anna 
let herself be persuaded. It did not matter where they lived, pro- 
vided he was with her, and besides she might conceivably exercise 
a restraining influence upon him. 

In spite of the boredom, the sense of waste, the anxiety that these 
Dresden days held, they affected what the two had hoped of them: 
they cemented the union. Dostoevsky 's cruel nerves gave his young 
wife moments of childish panic and despair, and at times she was 


ready to throw herself out of the window, but when, late in June, 
the money from Katkov arrived and they were leaving the city, 
Anna wrote in her diary: "Good-bye now, Dresden. . . . How happy 
we have been here together; I don't really count our little differ- 
ences one bit, as I know Fyodor loves me, and the cause of it all 
is nothing but his irritable, volcanic nature; even for that do I love 
him beyond all words." 


As soon as they had the fare, the couple took the train for Baden. 
True, when he had been in this gambler's paradise with Polina he 
had had a run of bad luck, but going with Anna, it would be a 
different story. 

They arrived in Baden on July 4, and for the seven miserable 
weeks that they remained there their existence revolved around 
the gaming-tables. He would work spasmodically at his article on 
Belinsky, which was still far from finished, and without putting 
anything on paper he was brooding in the night hours over a pro- 
ject that he hoped to make a bigger thing than Crime and Punish- 
ment. But he was not free to give himself to these occupations. He 
was a man possessed. It was an illness, a mania. He cursed the 
game, he cursed his luck, he called himself a weakling and a scoun- 
drel. But as long as there was anything to stake, he was in a fever 
until he got to the gambling-rooms. 

At first, gains and losses alternated, but the former were always 
modest until, on the twelfth day, he won heavily. It was a stormy 
evening, and by the lightning-flashes the couple counted out a 
fortune of three thousand francs. The next day luck turned against 
him, and thereafter smiled on him intermittently and briefly. He 
continued to hope, in vain, that he would repeat his coup. When 
he did win, there was a feast: fruit, berries, wine, pastries. More 
frequently he lost. Two fairly large remittances from Anna's 
mother were promptly gambled away, and gradually her brooch, 
her ear-rings, her lilac dress, her fur coat, her lace scarf, a pair of 
his trousers, his old hat, their wedding rings found their way into 
the pawnbroker's shop, only to be redeemed with his winnings, and 
pawned again. He had to slink out of the house with his bundle con- 
cealed from the landlady's eye, cool his heels in dingy rooms, wait- 


ing for some shady trafficker in secondhand goods, receive such 
characters in his own lodging, run from one moneylender to an- 
other, and when he finally got his man, there was disgusting begging 
and bargaining. 

As if there were not enough to make their heads ache, they were 
roused early every morning by the thumping boots of the smith's 
apprentices in the attic overhead and kept awake by the hammer and 
bellows below stairs. It was to this wretched lodging that Dostoev- 
sky would return from the casino, so often empty-handed, to face 
the girl whom he had married less than six months previously and 
who was now carrying his child. He shouted that he was to blame, 
he cried that he hated her, he threw himself at her feet, he beat his 
head with his fists, he sobbed — and he went back. The thing was 
stronger than he. How would he take care of Pasha and the others? 
How would he ever pay off his debts? He screamed, he wrung his 
hands. He would go mad or shoot himself! And what if Katkov 
should suddenly die? He was full of whims. He worked himself into 
a frenzy over trifles. There was constant wrangling, no less bitter 
for being absurd. He was ruled by superstitious fancies. He blamed 
his losses on a Pole who stood next to him at the tables, on a Rus- 
sian woman who chattered too much, on an Englishman who 
reeked of eau de Cologne, on Anna who had refused to take a walk 
with him. She continued the patient Griselda: she bore with his 
ugly temper, his unjust reproaches; she soothed him; she hid her 
own tears from him; though she tried to shield him from himself, 
she let him have his way. 

She had her moments of inward rebellion at his egotism, his lack 
of kindness and understanding. She could bear to trudge to the 
pawnbroker's for him, to wash his shirts, to nurse him during his 
seizure, even to watch him as he stood at the tables, his face 
flushed, his eyes bloodshot as though he were drunk, but she was 
enraged at the thought that he was more concerned about Mikhail's 
widow and orphans than about his own wife and their unborn child. 
She told herself that all their sufferings were for the sake of strangers 
and that she herself meant nothing to him. But these were only brief 
and transient moods. A tender word from him, a gesture of affec- 
tion would dissipate them. 

The very miseries of their situation drew the two together as 


prosperity and pleasure could not have done. When he would come 
in white-faced and then dazzle her with the gold he had won — he 
had a habit of showing a woebegone face in good fortune, as though 
to propitiate jealous Fate — there would be flowers and wine and 
delicacies, and life would have a sparkle. But even when his pallor 
was unfeigned, when their things were in pawn, the rent unpaid, 
the coffee and candles got on credit, the news from home devasta- 
ting, the future frightening — even then they would turn to one an- 
other with a smile or a kiss, and feel that where all else tottered, 
their affection was secure. So many entries in her journal concluded 
on a confession of complete conjugal bliss. At the end of one of their 
most dismal days, when they were wondering how they would go on 
at all, she wrote in her diary: "It seemed to me that all this trouble 
was a kind of atonement for the tremendous happiness that had 
come my way in marrying Fyodor.'* Was she repeating something 
that her husband had suggested to her in one of their midnight talks? 
Was it thus that he accounted to himself for his irrational and 
ruinous passion? 


The pair were the more dependent upon one another because 
they lived in complete isolation, too poor and too absorbed in their 
predicament to be aware of the glittering life of the resort, let alone 
take part in it. But even if they avoided the promenade by daylight 
because Anna had nothing to wear (and the couple had certainly 
not come to drink the waters in the company of pampered fashion- 
ables), Dostoevsky could not help chancing upon Russian acquain- 
tances among the cosmopolitan crowd at the casino. The very first 
Sunday he ran into Goncharov, already the renowned author of 
Oblomov. A solid citizen and a state councillor, Goncharov was at 
first somewhat abashed at being caught gambling, but seeing Dosto- 
evsky's matter-of-fact acceptance of the situation, he admitted that 
he was playing, and the two drifted into talk. Among other things, 
Goncharov said that Turgenev, who was then a resident of Baden, 
had noticed Dostoevsky at the casino the previous day but, know- 
ing that gamblers dislike being interrupted at play, had not accosted 

What a nuisance! He still owed Turgenev the money he had 


borrowed when he was stranded in Wiesbaden two years earlier, 
and now he would have to go and call on him, or the man would 
think he was being avoided. He knew how it would be: Turgenev 
would pretend to embrace him, but only offer his cheek to be kissed. 
He had the manners of a fop, of an aristocratic trifler. His latest 
novel. Smoke, with its paean to Western civilization, was enough 
to turn the stomach of any Russian. And to think that this man, 
with his ample income, was paid at a higher rate than he, with all 
his responsibiUties and burdens, could hope for! 

It was Wednesday morning before Dostoevsky forced himself 
to call on Turgenev — a duty all the more disagreeable since he was 
not in a position to pay his debt. The visit lasted an hour or so. 
Straight from the quiet house on Schillerstrasse he went to the 
casino. He won a considerable sum of money and after a sumptuous 
dinner returned to the gambling-rooms, but luck turned against 
him, and though he went back to the tables three times the same 
afternoon, he always lost. He became so irritable that, there being 
nothing else to complain of, he worked himself into a rage because 
it took so long to get dark. It was in this angry mood that he told 
Anna, over their evening tea, about his visit to Turgenev. The man 
was embittered by the failure of Smoke and kept returning to the 
sore subject, but he, Dostoevsky, had said nothing about it. He 
had, however, advised Turgenev to get himself a telescope and 
train it on Russia, otherwise he could not hope to understand what 
was going on there. He had also told Turgenev frankly that he was 
not the realist he thought himself. Before taking leave, he could 
not help venting his animosity against the Germans, saying that they 
were stupid and often deceitful. Although this had offended his host, 
who declared that he had become a German himself, the two man- 
aged to part with a show of friendliness. 

The following morning Turgenev, who wished to save appear- 
ances, returned I>ostoevsky's call, but at an hour when he knew 
he would not be received. When, later, they ran into each other at 
the casino, neither bowed. 

Nearly two months later Dostoevsky gave a fuller account of his 
visit to Turgenev in a letter to Maikov. The conversation, he wrote, 
had first centred on Smoke, and Turgenev had been shameless 
enough to say that the main point of the novel was that mankind 


would lose nothing if Russia were to sink through the ground. And 
of course he was an atheist: he had said so flatly. Good God! Re- 
ligion gives us the incomparable beauty, the serene ideal of Christ, 
while all these Turgenevs, Herzens, Chernyshevskys — the whole 
Belinsky progeny — present nothing but a spectacle of emptiness, 
vanity, and abominable self-love! Turgenev pretended to love 
Russia, but he hated and made a mock of everything original there. 
Among other things, he had said that the Russians "must crawl 
before the Germans," that civilization was the one common and 
inevitable road, and that any attempt on the part of Russia to go 
its own gait was "swinishness and folly." He was going to put all 
these ideas in a pamphlet he was writing against the Slavophils. It 
was at this point that Dostoevsky had mentioned the telescope. 
Here was a home thrust, and it annoyed Turgenev accordingly. The 
rest of the account agrees with Dostoevsky's report to his wife. 
The story of the quarrel was soon common gossip in literary 
circles. A copy of the passage relating to it in the letter to Maikov 
was sent anonymously, probably by Strakhov, to the editor of 
Russky arhiv ("Russian Archives"), a historical review, with the 
request to preserve the document for posterity. Before the year 
was over, Turgenev learned of it and, believing that Dostoevsky 
had been responsible for this step, hastened to write a letter to pro- 
test to the editor, Bartenev. He said that he could not possibly have 
expressed his intimate convictions in the presence of his visitor, for 
the simple reason that he thought the man "not wholly in pos- 
session of his mental faculties, an opinion shared by many other 
persons." Dostoevsky, he went on, "sat with me no more than an 
hour, and retired after having relieved his heart by ferociously 
abusing the Germans, myself, and my latest book. I had neither 
the time nor the desire to argue with him. I repeat, I treated him 
as I would a sick man. The arguments which he expected from me 
must have presented themselves to his deranged imagination. . . ." 
A few years later, writing to a friend about the affair, Turgenev 
said: "He [Dostoevsky] came to me . . . not to pay the money 
he had borrowed off me, but to upbraid me for Smoke which, ac- 
cording to his notion, should be burned by the hand of the execu- 
tioner. I listened to his philippic in silence, and what do I learn? 
That I expressed within his hearing criminal opinions, which he 


hastened to communicate to Bartenev. ... It would have been 
simple calumny, if Dostoevsky weren't crazy — which I don't doubt 
in the least. Perhaps he hallucinated." 

It is not probable that Turgenev listened to Dostoevsky "in 
silence," but it is more than probable that Dostoevsky, in his 
wrought-up state, distorted and exaggerated whatever his host 
may have said. Just at that time he was locking the door on those 
aberrations of his youth he identified with the name of Belinsky. 
Turgenev, appearing to him as the spiritual son of the dead heresi- 
arch, drew down upon his own head all the lightnings Dostoevsky 
intended for Belinsky. More than likely he attributed to Turgenev 
not the opinions he heard, but the opinions he expected to hear 
from that quarter. 

August found the fortunes of the couple at low ebb and Anna's 
patience almost gone. A remittance from her mother relieved them 
slightly. With part of this sum in his pocket, Dostoevsky went to 
redeem Anna's ring, brooch, and ear-rings, but before he reached 
the pawnbroker's he found himself at the casino, where he gam- 
bled the money away. He came home in a desperate state, crying, 
and calling himself a worthless scoundrel. This was the last drop. 
They would leave this accursed place the next day. No longer able 
to trust him, Anna accompanied him to the pawnbroker's to redeem 
her trinkets. The following morning — it was August 23 — he was 
again at the tables, having pawned his ring, and lost again. As 
before, he came home agonizing, calling himself a blackguard, and 
entreating Anna's forgiveness on his knees. As these losses left 
them without enough money for the journey, the ear-rings went 
back to the pawnshop. An hour before the train left, he managed 
to gamble away a few more thalers. That day Anna closed the 
entry in her diary thus: "I will even forbid my children ever to 
come here, so much have I endured in this place." 

There could be no thought of going home. He was afraid the 
creditors might have him arrested forthwith. He and Anna must, 
therefore, winter abroad. They had planned to go either to Paris 
or Italy, but this being too expensive, they went to Geneva instead, 
so that Dostoevsky was again following the route he had previously 


taken with Polina. On their way they stopped off at Basle, where 
they did some sight-seeing. At the museum here he stood in fasci- 
nated horror before Holbein's "Dead Christ." Anna in her over- 
sensitive state, refused to look at it, and when she rejoined her 
husband after a quarter of an hour she found him still standing 
before the canvas as though chained to it, and with that slightly 
frightened expression on his face which frequently betokened an 
approaching attack. She led him away, and he became quiet, but as 
he left the museum he swore that he would return to look at the 
picture again. 

The impression the canvas made upon him he transcribed in 
the bitter testament ("An Essential Explanation") of the con- 
sumptive Ippolit in The Idiot. If the transcription, as is likely, 
is a faithful one, this realistic picture of the corpse of Christ came 
as a challenge to his faith, a dark echo of his doubt. "When you look 
at this picture, nature appears to you as an immense, merciless, 
dumb beast, or more correctly, much more correctly, speaking, 
though it sounds strange, in the form of a huge machine of the most 
modern construction which, dull and insensate, has senselessly 
clutched, crushed, and swallowed up a great and priceless Being, a 
Being worth all of nature and its laws, worth the whole earth, which 
was created perhaps solely for the sake of the advent of that Being! 
This picture expresses and involuntarily suggests to one the con- 
ception of a dark, insolent, unreasoning and eternal Power to which 
everything is subject." How could men see this corpse, and believe? 
"These people surrounding the dead man . . . must have experienced 
terrible anguish and consternation on that evening, which had at 
once crushed all their hopes, and almost their beliefs. They must 
have parted in the most awful terror, though each one carried away 
within him a mighty thought that could never be wrested from 
him." One imagines Dostoevsky looking at this dead body and para- 
phasing Scripture: Blessed are they that have seen, and yet have 

The couple's circumstances when they arrived in Geneva were 
dismal. They had only a few francs left and nothing to expect 
but a paltry fifty roubles from home. It was terrible for Dostoevsky 
to think of the straits Pasha and the others must be in. If only he 
hadn't burdened himself with all those debts! He must throw him- 


Photograph probably taken in 1863 


self on his friends again. He begged Maikov to lend him a small 
sum, turning part of it over to Pasha. Maikov's response allowed 
them to keep their heads above water for a while. To add to his 
troubles, his attacks became more frequent: horrible as those seven 
weeks at Baden had been, he had suffered only two seizures there. 
At Geneva there was hardly a week without an attack, and for days 
thereafter he lay stupefied. How, under such conditions, could he 
work? And yet only work could save them. 

The setting of his days was changed, but it was no less foreign. 
If the people around him were not Germans, he found them just as 
alien, repellent, chilling. Russia was further away than ever. And 
return was indefinitely postponed. He was like a fish out of water. 
True, there were some Russians in Geneva, but they were profes- 
sional revolutionists, expatriates, and so there was no question of 
commerce with them. They only helped to make him feel that he 
was a castaway, living on an uninhabited island. Oh, for Russian 
faces, Russian speech, Russian interests! He longed for them, he 
needed them for his writing. 

His writing? He had nothing black on white to show for the 
summer. He had carried no manuscript with him to Geneva. All 
he had was an idea for a novel. It would be a big thing. "I love 
it terribly," he was writing to Maikov a few days after his arrival 
in Switzerland, "and I shall be writing it with joy and anguish." 
But he must first be quit of the essay on Belinsky. He had been 
working at it on and off all summer, and now at last, before Sep- 
tember was half over, he completed it. It had been a ticklish job. 
He couldn't face squarely the issues involved in any discussion of 
Belinsky and still hope his article would pass the censor. He felt 
like a man walking on eggs. He wrote, he tore up, he rewrote, and 
finally produced a piece that was neither here nor there, much to 
his own disgust. As the manuscript was never published and has 
been lost, irretrievably it appears, one can only guess at what he 
actually said. It must have been a farewell to the short-lived radi- 
calism of his youth, a renewed attack on socialism and unfaith. 

Just about the time that he was putting the finishing touches to 
this ill-starred essay, the International League for Peace and Free- 
dom was holding a congress in Geneva, in the hope of averting an 
impending Franco-Prussian conflict. The shades of opinion repre- 


sented ranged from a pallid liberalism to communism and the 
most violent anarchism. If Dostoevsky was among the crowd that 
packed the huge Palais Electoral at the first session, the afternoon 
of September 9, he heard the wild applause that greeted alike the 
address delivered by the representative of the Workers' Interna- 
tional and the more sentimental eloquence of Garibaldi. It is cer- 
tain that he went with Anna to get a glimpse of the proceedings 
the next day. One of the first speakers at that session protested 
against Garibaldi's declaration of the previous day that the congress 
should adopt "the religion of God," even though what he meant 
was the religion of reason. Far from creating a new religion, the 
orator argued, reason should destroy those that exist. Churches, 
no less than barracks, must be razed to the ground. This sentiment 
elicited loud applause, in which Garibaldi himself joined. Then a 
shaggy, unkempt, toothless giant, wearing a nondescript grey cloak 
with a red flannel shirt showing from under it, made the steps of the 
rostrum creak under his elephantine tread. It was the veteran revo- 
lutionist and apostle of anarchism, Bakunin. His programme was 
simple and bold. The Russian Empire must go. All the other mon- 
archies of Europe must go. The false principle of nationalism must 
go. Peace and freedom would come only through a spontaneous 
federation of communes. A United States of Europe must rise upon 
the ruins of the existing empires. May Russian arms suffer every de- 
feat, may the power that rests upon them suffer every humiliation: 
this was his wish as a liberty-loving Russian. 

Other speakers followed. So here they were in the flesh, these 
European socialists, these prophets of the new order, who had 
been only disembodied names to Dostoevsky until now. The whole 
thing turned his stomach. After two more days of speechifying, 
the congress disbanded. If he did not attend all the sessions, he 
must have followed the reports of them in the papers. The de- 
parture of Garibaldi, before the opening of the third session, re- 
moved a restraining influence, and during the final days the social- 
ist faction and its opponents were at it tooth and nail. To Dostoev- 
sky the congress was one continuous squabble, a babel, a bedlam. 
What was there to hold these saviours of mankind together? They 
wanted to achieve peace by fire and sword; they wanted to get men 
to share their possessions fraternally — by decree. Naturally, they 


would abolish Christianity. And to think that these wretches were 
stirring up the unhappy workers! Thus he set down his impressions 
of the congress in letters home. The moments of enthusiasm, of 
glorious accord, the noble gestures, the universal reverence for the 
Italian hero and the exalted principles he stood for — all this went 
unnoticed. All Dostoevsky could see was that these members of the 
League for Peace and Freedom were dangerous fools who did not 
understand that peace could not be legislated and that the only 
safeguard of freedom was religious faith. 


Jk T LAST he was able to take his novel in hand. It was high time 
ZA to get to work. Aside from the old debts, there were all 
A V those thousands of roubles he had taken from Katkov. And 
the people at home had to be provided for. He would share his 
last shirt with Pasha, the poor dear boy. As for themselves, soon 
there would be the additional expenses of Anna's confinement and, 
please God, another mouth to feed. The novel was his only hope. 
And it stubbornly refused to take shape. Images, ideas, situations 
were churning in his head, but the characters somehow kept slip- 
ping away from him, and in consequence the plot was always shift- 

His point of departure was the character of ''the idiot,*' a youth 
hated by his mother, who had given him this nickname and the 
reputation of an idler, although he actually supported the whole 
family; as a child he had been abandoned by his parents. The 
only thing that this boy has in common with the hero of the novel 
in its final version is his sobriquet. He first presented himself to 
Dostoevsky's imagination as the embodiment of a self-love so 
passionate and extreme that it was akin to madness. In some way 
the Idiot is to come into conflict with his opposite, also a passion- 
ate soul, but a selfless Christian. The Idiot is in love with an un- 
happy young girl, Mignon. She was to be modelled partly on the 
heroine of a sensational trial which was going on at home just 
when Dostoevsky began planning the novel in earnest — a fifteen- 
year-old girl so cruelly treated by her parents that she tried to 
commit suicide and repeatedly set fire to the house. It is curious 
that just when he was joyfully anticipating the arrival of his own 
first-born, he should have been haunted by the idea of a child 
suffering from the unnatural hostility of its parents. 

He made one "final" draft after another, changing the plot, 



shifting the emphasis, introducing new characters. He was like a 
man groping in the dark. His fancy, dwelling amid scenes of wild 
generosity and insane jealousy, in an atmosphere of rape and in- 
cest, of love that was hatred and hate that was love, kept sum- 
moning up half-formed shapes of men and women. But whither 
was this chaos of sensuality moving, and how was it to be re- 
deemed? Perhaps precisely because the Idiot sank to the depths of 
selfishness and evil he might touch the peak of grace. Even that 
notion brought Dostoevsky no further. 

It was already November, and all that his labours had resulted in 
was a pile of notebooks crammed with contradictory jottings. Sud- 
denly he was seized by a new idea. His central character would 
be not a passionate sinner but, instead, a man caught in a tangle 
of mad passions, yet preserving a childlike purity and sweetness — 
the Idiot of the published novel. Here was a complete, a master- 
ing image. Now there need be no more hesitation. He sat down 
to write. 

A week after he fastened upon his theme, on November 17, he 
abandoned the manuscript on which everything depended, and his 
darling Anna, and in a few hours reached the little watering place 
of Saxon, the only resort in Switzerland offering the attractions of 
Baden-Baden, Homburg, and Wiesbaden. This was not the first 
time he had visited Saxon. He had been there six weeks previously 
and come home with empty pockets, having left his wedding ring 
in pawn. And now against every persuasion of reason, he was there 
again. This time Fate must relent! 

Anna had offered no resistance: she knew that to oppose him 
would be only to fan the flame. She stayed behind in their dingy 
furnished room and waited for tidings of disaster. They came in the 
form of a letter announcing that he had lost everything, that his 
overcoat and his wedding ring were in pawn, and that he was 
condemned to stay in the accursed place until she sent him a remit- 
tance. Never, never again would he go near the tables! Never again 
would he steal her money "like a low, dirty thief." He would yet 
win her respect. But she must love him as he loved her, "infinitely, 
eternally." She must not grieve over the loss — he would borrow 
from a compatriot in Geneva and ask Katkov to double their 
allowance (the publisher had agreed to send him one hundred 


roubles a month). He would make her happy. A new life was begin- 
ning. If his pockets were empty, his heart was full of hope. The 
novel, the novel would save them! 

Strange, how the ruinous adventure left him with a sense of 
well-being! Back at his desk, he attacked his work with new energy. 
For two weeks he laboured steadily. And then he tossed aside 
everything he had written. The thing was worthless. He had made 
another false start. December was already under way, and the first 
instalment of the novel was due for the January issue of the maga- 
zine. He had taken an advance of forty-five hundred roubles and had 
not a page to give in return. In a panic he began to plan anew. His 
head was a mill, grinding out six different schemes every day. That 
he did not go insane was a marvel to him. The room was like an 
icehouse — these brainless Swiss in the midst of forests didn't know 
how to heat their houses — and he sat at his desk in his overcoat. He 
tried to keep that out of pawn. And in addition there was the un- 
bearable thought that Pasha, to whom he had not been able to send 
a copeck, might be starving. 

After a feverish fortnight he began the actual writing again. 
Although the central figure remained the Christlike Idiot, so changed 
was the setting that he was really attempting a new novel. By dint 
of half killing himself he was able to dispatch the first instalment 
in time for the January issue, which, luckily for him, was late as 
usual. But it was a bad business. Here he had sent off the first seven 
chapters of the novel, but he had only the vaguest notion of how 
the action would develop. Furthermore, even the central figures had 
not matured in his mind. Two or three of them were fairly present to 
him, but the Idiot, the chief character, the one upon whom the whole 
significance of the novel depended, was far from clear. To have dis- 
patched the first chapters under these circumstances was a sheer 
gamble, was staking everything on the next turn of the wheel. It was 
a good thing Katkov did not know this: he had told him a deliberate 
lie to the effect that much of the novel was written in the rough and 
he only had to polish it off. The one comfort was that the first part 
was more or less in the nature of an introduction and allowed him 
a free hand later on. Would it whet the appetite of his audience as 
he intended it to? Anna liked it but, as he wrote to Maikov, she 
was no judge of his business. 


The new year brought word that Dr. Ivanov, the husband of 
his sister Vera and the father of ten children, had suddenly died. 
Dostoevsky wrote tenderly to Sonia, telling her how much he 
loved them all. They must form one big family. And she must 
not believe that life ended so abruptly and meanly. No, it went on 
— there were other worlds than this. But we must be worthy of the 
final communion of all souls. She must believe not in death, but in 

Ivanov had left his family practically destitute, and this con- 
cerned Dostoevsky nearly: he had gone surety for Mikhail when 
the latter had borrowed six thousand roubles from Ivanov, a sum 
that had never been repaid. He immediately wrote to Vera to say 
that he held himself responsible for the amount, and would pay it 
as soon as possible. This practically doubled his indebtedness, but 
there were more immediate matters to worry about: how to make 
both ends meet from day to day while he was trying to get on 
with the novel. He was missing Anna's help, now that she was no 
longer able to take dictation steadily or to copy for any stretch of 
time. She spent long hours sewing baby-things. Meanwhile he kept 
steadily at work, and by the end of February he was able to send 
off another instalment, the last nine chapters of Part One. There 
were some fine things in what he had written, but he was still un- 
certain as to the rest of the plot, and some of the characters continu- 
ed to be in a state of flux. 

At the end of February the weather, which until then had been 
excellent, abruptly changed, and it stormed every day. This fur- 
ther irritated his nerves. He had two seizures in rapid succes- 
sion. This was the price, he thought, of the tumultuous scene with 
which the second instalment closed. On March 3 he went to bed 
at seven p.m. in a befogged state. Some time during the niglit 
he felt Anna's hand on his shoulder and heard her say: 'T think 
it's beginning: I am in pain." ''My poor darling," he murmured 
drowsily, "how I pity you!" The next thing he knew it was day- 
light. Anna was suffering severely. It happened that the landlady 
and the servant had left them alone in the house, and Anna had 
not renewed her attempt to rouse him for fear that he might have 


another attack. She had spent the whole night in an agony of pain 
and dread, Hstening to the wind and the rain beating against the 
window, and comforting herself as best she could with prayer, 
while her husband slept heavily beside her. 

Fully awake now, Dostoevsky rushed for the midwife. For 
thirty-three hours Anna was in labour and was only delivered at 
dawn on March 5. The baby was a girl, large, healthy, and, in her 
father's eyes, pretty. The terror of those endless hours, and then 
the sense of having partaken of a mystery, having witnessed a 
miracle, were unforgettable. Dostoevsky set them down years later 
in a passage of The Devils, (known to the English-reading public as 
The Possessed and hereafter referred to under that title). 'There 
were two and now there's a third human being," says the husband, 
*'a new spirit, finished and complete, unlike the handiwork of man; 
a new thought and a new love . . . it's positively frightening. . . . 
And there's nothing grander in the world." 

He doted on little Sonia. He couldn't tear himself away from 
the baby, rocking it, crooning to it, helping with its bath, and pin- 
ning it into its swaddling-clothes. She looked remarkably like him, 
he found, even to the wrinkles on her Httle forehead, and as she 
lay in her crib he could have sworn she was composing a novel. He 
communicated the great news to his family, although he had no 
illusions as to how they would take it. His sister Vera would be the 
only one to share his joy. To the others the baby's arrival was 
something of a disaster. Indeed, Maikov urged him to make his 
will without delay, for if anything happened to him, the Peters- 
burg relatives were capable of trying to snatch the inheritance 
from his widow and orphan. 

It was all very well to talk about wills and bequests, but just 
now all that he had to leave his family was debts. The baby's 
coming had only piled them up higher. She was not two weeks old 
when everything they could possibly raise money on was in the 
pawnshop. His epilepsy was getting worse, and what if the baby 
or her mother took sick? He had asked Katkov for a further ad- 
vance, so there was still hope. But even that well might conceiv- 
ably dry up. What then? And to crown it all, the excitement, the 
distractions, and the sleepless nights had prevented him from touch- 
ing the novel! 


Katkov's kindness knew no limits. He granted the advance, so 
that Dostoevsky could ease his conscience by helping Pasha and 
Emilia Fyodorovna once more. He had been excused from con- 
tributing to the March issue, but here was April and not a line 
written, and he had given the good Katkov his solemn promise 
to send copy in on time for the April issue. He was under the 
most pressing obligation. He must not lose a moment's time. He 
must work as he had never worked before. He kissed Anna and 
the baby, and with a portion of the advance in his pocket, boarded 
the train for Saxon and the tables. 

Within a few hours of his arrival he was writing to Anna for 
money with which to redeem his ring and pay his fare back. He had 
taken the bread out of the mouth of his wife and baby. His baby? 
What kind of a father was he, anyhow? He didn't deserve to have 
a child. He was doomed to torment those whom he loved most. He 
had done an abominable, an inexcusable thing. But it had taught 
him a lesson. And it was not without a good side. Perhaps the Lord 
in His infinite mercy had led him to the tables again in order to save 
him, "dissolute, low, petty gambler" that he was. For the disaster 
had left him with an amazing idea which was bound to prove the 
salvation of them all. It had come to him as he was walking in the 
park at night after he had gambled away the last franc; it was just 
as in Wiesbaden when, in the same desperate state, he had 
lighted on the idea of Crime and Punishment and at the same 
time conceived the extraordinary notion of offering the novel to 

Here was his remarkable plan: he would write to Katkov to 
help them move to Vevey! This is what he would say: Mikhail 
Nikiforovich, you have been my Providence; you made my mar- 
riage possible; you've been my support through all these months; 
now you must do one more thing; Geneva doesn't agree with us; 
Vevey, on the contrary, is rural, quiet, cheap; my attacks will cease 
in Ihat wonderful climate, which will also benefit my wife and 
baby, and, with all of us well, my novel will march; by autumn 
at the latest you shall have it complete, and your generosity will be 
fully repaid; only now do send me the three hundred roubles we 
need for the removal. He outlined this plan in a letter to Anna 
from Saxon, adding that in the autumn they would return to 


Russia via Italy, which he must show her. If only she knew how 
full of hope and confidence he was now. 

He was no sooner back in Geneva than his elation gave way to 
despondency. He worked doggedly, indeed he forced himself to 
write directly after a severe attack, in a state that he described to 
Maikov as insanity. But the thing refused to shape itself properly, 
and in the end he had only two ragged chapters to send off. Geneva 
seemed windier and gloomier than ever, and the only thing that 
made life bearable was the baby. Even his joy in her was embit- 
tered when he thought of the future. 

In the middle of May his mother-in-law joined them. Her com- 
ing heartened Anna, made both of them feel less forlorn, and 
was a blessing for the baby. It was part of the daily routine for it 
to take its nap in the Jardin Anglais. One afternoon a treacherous 
bise blew up, and the child began to cough. The cold developed 
into pneumonia. For a week the doctor came every day and assured 
them that the baby would recover. Nevertheless, Dostoevsky, un- 
easy and unable to do any work, hung over the crib constantly. 
The morning of May 24 the doctor told them that the baby was 
much better. At the usual time Dostoevsky left the house for the 
cafe to look through the Russian papers. Two hours later little Sonia 
was dead. 

The light, the warmth went out of the world. He thought he 
could not bear the pain of it. A small creature, scarcely three 
months old, hardly human yet, one would think, strange that she 
counted so heavily with him! They would have to bury with her 
so many hopes, so many dreams. She had already begun to smile, 
to recognize him, to quiet her crying when he came close. She 
had been a person, a separate spirit. And where was she now? 
^riiere was no comfort for him anywhere. Some weeks previously, 
writing to his niece Sonia on her father's death, he had spoken to 
her of the continuity of life, of spiritual communion, of other 
worlds than this, of resurrection. There was no echo of all this in 
the words in which he announced his sad news to Maikov. He 
begged his friend to keep it from the family for a while. They 
were capable of being pleased, rather than otherwise, at the baby's 
death, and this thought was intolerable. 

From the first he had disliked Geneva, finding it a grim, gusty 


place, thick with Calvinists and drunkards. Now he had good rea- 
son to hate it. These vile winds, that stupid doctor, the careless 
nurse — they had taken his Sonia from him. And where else would 
one find neighbours who would knock at the door and ask a be- 
reaved mother not to sob because it annoyed them? 

On a warm cloudy day that suited their heavy mood, Dostoev- 
sky went with Anna to pay a farewell visit to the little grave, and 
from the cemetery they went straight to the steamer that was to 
take them across the lake to Vevey. Yes, they were indeed going 
there, but under what heartbreaking circumstances! As they glided 
over the quiet waters mirroring the enchanted landscape, all the 
cruelties that life had shown him, from his mother's death, through 
prison and exile, the harassments of his first marriage, the vexa- 
tions of his literary career, his unhappy loves, down to this last 
desolating grief, rose up to crush him. 

That summer among the cool beauties of Vevey was the bleakest 
the pair were ever to know. They avoided the streets so as not to 
see other people's children. There was nothing to distract Anna 
from her sorrow, and night after night she gave herself up to the 
luxury of tears. But she was sustained by the hope of being a 
mother again — this was her constant prayer. As for Dostoevsky, he 
wanted Sonia. If another child came, he asked himself where he 
would find love for it in his heart. Time only sharpened his anguish. 
He could not forget how the baby's eyes had followed him on that 
last day when he went off to read the newspapers. That memory 
was a wound that would not heal. 

By contrast with his mood, the serene charm of the town was 
painful. Where was the demi-Eden he had imagined Vevey to be? 
Why, it was worse than Geneva. True, the scenery was incom- 
parable, and the place was free of the bise that had robbed him 
of Sonia. But the air he discovered to be enervating in the extreme, 
as did Anna, as did her mother, who, having come to help care 
for the baby, now found her occupation gone. The natives here 
were just the same dishonest, mean, filthy imbeciles they were 
elsewhere — indeed, he asserted irritably, the Kirghiz in their yurtas 
were cleaner in their habits than the Swiss. A vile place, this re- 
public, bourgeois to its rotten core! Like all Europe. No, for true 
high-mindedness, simplicity, and understanding, you must go to 


the Russian masses. They want not comfort, but goodness. They 
have preserved through all adversities the Russian idea, which is 
inseparable from the Orthodox faith, and which within a hundred 
years will regenerate the world. Such, he had written to Maikov 
some weeks earlier, was his "passionate belief." That this high 
mission might be accomplished, Russia must reign supreme over 
all Slavdom. She must prepare for the great conflict to come and 
keep out of European struggles. Her strength, her future were 
bound up with the people's love for the tsar. All this the wretched 
radicals could never get into their heads. The filthy nonenities 
swollen with self-importance! He abused them in unprintable lan- 
guage. For himself, he had become a "complete monarchist." 

Dostoevsky had thought that at Vevey he would feel better and 
work better. He was mistaken. His health was worse. During 
May, the month of Httle Soma's fatal illness, he had succeeded in 
writing but a paltry two chapters, and in the summer months that 
followed he managed to squeeze out of himself only driblets. He 
noted with horror that his powers were failing. He could no longer 
work at his old speed. The last instalment of the second part did 
not appear until the July issue. If only he could break the evil 
spell and make something good of the rest of the novel, he might 
yet revive, otherwise he was lost. To add to his distress, he could 
not get a Russian paper to read. And, after a long painful silence, 
a letter from Pasha saying that he had lost his job sent his siep- 
father further into debt for his sake. Dostoevsky lived for letters 
from home, especially Maikov's, and he began to suspect, justifi- 
ably, that his mail was being tampered with. Certainly the letters 
he wrote were read by the police — its long hand reached even to 
Geneva, where the Russian priest was in the secret service. And to 
think that he, Fyodor Dostoevsky, a nationalist, a patriot, a man 
adoring his sovereign, a man who was with the Government to 
the point of "playing traitor," so he said, to his "former convic- 
tions," was held suspect. It was almost enough to turn him from 
his allegiance. 

They had stayed over a year in this hateful Switzerland, and 
another winter there was unthinkable. Both of them were literally 
sick of it. By September they were in Milan— their money would 
not take them farther south. The journey refreshed him; the Lom- 


bard peasants reminded him of muzhiks. The climate of Milan 
agreed with him, and the sights, particularly for Anna, were divert- 
ing. But living was more expensive; it rained a great deal, and again 
there was not a Russian face, not a Russian book or newspaper. 
They were bored, they were gloomy, they had not left their grief 
behind them at Vevey. And his prospects were as uncertain as be- 
fore. How could they return home? And how could he live away 
from it? The novel kept to its slow pace. It was already November, 
and he still had the whole of the fourth and last part to write. 
Indeed, this was to be the crown of the work, that portion for the 
sake of which he now believed that he had written the whole. If only 
he could have had the chance to revise it all before publishing any 
of it! Now that he was on the last lap, the conviction grew upon him 
that he had never touched a richer subject than this of the Idiot, and 
that. Heaven help him, he had come near botching it. At any rate, 
he could not rush the last part so as to publish it before the year was 
out. In order to avoid carrying it over into the January number for 
the following year, Katkov would have to issue the remaining chap- 
ters separately as a supplement, and Dostoevsky, to make up for 
the expense and inconvenience, would waive payment for that part. 
And how he needed the money! 

This unusual arrangement was actually carried out. The last 
chapter is dated January 17, 1869. Toward the end he was delayed 
by two severe attacks coming in swift succession. He finished the 
novel in deep anguish of soul. 


When The Idiot was finally under way, Dostoevsky told his niece 
Sonia, to whom he was dedicating the novel, and his friend Maikov 
that his intention in writing it was to portray what he called "a 
wholly admirable human being.'* He had cherished such an idea in 
secret for a long time, and yet it was not fully ripe even now, so that 
he felt that in his desperation he was rashly plucking a green fruit, 
which should have been granted a longer summer to mature. The 
thought made him ache. He knew, besides, what a difficult problem 
he had before him. He was setting himself the task of presenting an 
image of perfection. This meant, of course, an image touched with 
the light of the infinitely suffering, divinely compassionate face 


of Christ. There, he said to himself, was the only perfect man the 
world has ever known. But could he offer a convincing imitation of 
Christ to an age of drift and confusion? True, the attempt to repre- 
sent moral excellence in literature was not new. There was, he re- 
flected, Don Quixote; there was, to take a very different instance 
of goodness lovable by reason of its very absurdity, Mr. Pickwick. 
There was Jean Valjean, that man of sorrows, who attracts 
sympathy by his sufferings. How could he make his own hero ridicu- 
lous, how could he make him pitiable, and thus save him from 

In the notes for the novel its hero is referred to as "Prince 
Christ." The finished work retains only a few traces of this con- 
ception. Prince Myshkin's face, with its large blue eyes, hollow 
cheeks, thin blond beard, is suggestive of the face on the icon. He 
suffers little children to come unto him and befriends a woman 
who is an outcast — this in a sickeningly mawkish passage which is 
the nadir of Dostoevsky's art. The novelist is careful, however, not 
to stress the protagonist's Christlike features. The problem before 
him, he knew, was how to depict a man, not a god. His instinct as 
a writer told him that he must humanize his paragon by a degrading 
touch of nature. He solved his problem by making his hero an 
"idiot." The wine is precious, but the vessel is flawed. If his "prin- 
cipal mind," as one of the women who love him puts it, is extra- 
ordinarily fine, his other mind, the subordinate one, is defective. 
Prince Myshkin's lineage goes back to Ivanushka the Simpleton, 
or rather to the yurodivyi (the saintly imbecile), the Russian equiv- 
alent of the Teutonic "pure fool." 

As the novel opens, the guileless young nobleman, who has spent 
most of his life abroad, is returning to Petersburg, without any 
visible means of support and practically no connections, to make 
his home there. He shows few traces of the obscure mental ailment 
from which he had been suffering since childhood, but, like his 
creator, he is subject to epileptic attacks, and he behaves so oddly 
that people at first blush dismiss him as "an idiot." He has not 
been in the capital a day when he finds himself fatefully involved 
with half a dozen men and women he had never seen before. The 
development of these entanglements forms the substance of the 
novel. Its structure shov/s a symmetry unusual for Dostoevsky. It 


begins with Myshkin sitting opposite Rogozhin in a railway carriage 
and receiving his confidences regarding his passion for Nastasya 
Filippovna. It ends with Myshkin sitting on the floor beside Rogo- 
zhin; the body of Nastasya, whom he has just murdered, lies in the 
next room. But the main plot is overlaid by a mass of subplots and 
digressions, the narrative teeming with the stock characters and 
situations of melodrama, the surprises, coincidences, and climaxes 
of the thriller. Not infrequently the action halts, and there are comic 
interludes, especially when General Ivolgin, a grotesque quasi- 
Dickensian figure, appears on the scene. Nevertheless, the novel as 
a whole is marked by urgency and tension, moving as it does through 
a series of crises to a dimly foreshadowed tragic denouement. 

Throughout, Myshkin's motives are in sharp contrast with the 
greed, the sensuality, the vanity, the meanness, the sheer perversity 
that rule the men and women whose destiny is caught up with his. 
He is gifted with candour, gentle gaiety, true courtesy, the wisdom 
that comes from the heart, a pitying love that, understanding all, 
pardons all. He knows himself generally inadequate and confesses 
to having "double thoughts," in which a high motive is coupled 
with a base one. The fact that he invariably acts upon the former 
does not mitigate his feeling of unworthiness. He asserts his self 
by yielding it. Innocence is another of his virtues, but his chief 
characteristic is meekness. One cannot imagine him chasing the 
money-changers out of the temple. He is poles apart from Don 
Quixote, whose figure haunted Dostoevsky while the novel was in 
process of gestation. The hidalgo fights, even if sometimes only 
against windmills, the prince is apt to remain a passive bystander. 
Implicit in his behaviour is the proposition that all coercion, 
whether of body or mind, is an attempt upon the freedom to choose 
between good and evil, which is the token of being human. 

On one occasion he does show an intransigent spirit: he startles 
the aristocratic guests at a soiree by launching a passionate tirade 
against the Catholic Church as the betrayer of Christ and the mother 
of atheism and socialism. From these plagues, he prophesies, man- 
kind will be saved by Russian Orthodoxy. Here Dostoevsky was 
making his hero a mouthpiece for one of his pet ideas. Sensing that 
it was out of character for the gentle Myshkin to express himself 
thus vehemently, the novelist has him go beyond himself in this 


fashion when he is on the brink of an epileptic seizure. An account 
of the twilight state preceding another of his attacks is one of the 
most remarkable, and exacting, passages in the book. 

Dostoevsky uses the novel as the vehicle of other convictions of his 
own. On the fantastic night when Myshkin's friends celebrate his 
birthday with wine and talk that outlasts the dawn there is a debate 
in the course of which the materialistic trend of the age is denounced 
and utilitarian ethics indignantly repudiated. Curiously enough, the 
author allows these cherished sentiments of his to be voiced by a 
drunkard, cheat and lick-spittle, Lebedev. There are other thrusts 
at the nihilists. A group of them figure in the novel as comrades of 
a young man who, on the grounds of being the illegitimate son of 
Myshkin's quondam benefactor, claims part of the inheritance that 
the prince suddenly falls heir to. They are a shabby, dirty crew, 
cloaking a youthful timidity with an equally youthful arrogance. 
Dostoevsky started to caricature these boys, but could not sustain 
his satiric tone. The young blackmailers turn out to be nothing but 
ill-bred yet fundamentally good-hearted children, who end by bow- 
ing to the force of Myshkin's moral superiority. 

Indeed, all but the complete worldlings, and these play only a 
minor part in the novel, are open to the influence of Myshkin's 
radiant personality. Though he babbles of preserving the leading 
role of the caste into which he was born, his humanity transcends 
class divisions — he unbosoms himself as readily to a servant as to 
a high dignitary. Involuntarily he draws both men and women to 
himself. From the first the violent Rogozhin takes a brotherly in- 
terest in him, and the very day of his arrival in the capital two 
ravishing beauties, utterly different in character and circumstances, 
fall under his spell. One is Aglaia, the general's daughter, an 
impulsive, spirited creature with something delightfully fresh and 
virginal about her. The other is Nastasya Filippovna. Carefully 
brought up for his pleasure by a wealthy roue who made her his 
mistress in the first bloom of her youth, the sensitive, passionate 
woman carries about with her a burning sense of degradation, 
which drives her to wilfully sham.eful behaviour. She has a com- 
pulsion to keep her festering wound open. Of her two suitors, one 
has been bribed by her seducer to marry her; the other, Rogozhin, 
desires her with a blind lust that can only bring destruction. The 


prince offers her marriage to save her from her suitors and herself. 
His love could perhaps have made her whole. But all he is in a 
position to give her is pity; oddly enough, he does not realize that 
this can only confirm her feelings of being beyond redemption. She 
rejects him, though or perhaps because she is in love with him. Yet 
Aglaia is instinctively jealous of her and Rogozhin sees in the prince 
a baffling rival. 

The destinies of the two men are strangely linked. From the 
beginning they are attracted to each other. In one of the early drafts 
of the novel they figure as brothers. A significant passage of the 
final version shows them exchanging the crosses they wear, in token 
of spiritual kinship. Is it the kinship between the divided halves of 
one personality, the higher and the lower self? Is it the equivocal 
brotherhood of body and soul? One is tempted to read such symbo- 
lism into the novel, although it is doubtful whether Dostoevsky in- 
tended it. 

Myshkin's first interest in Aglaia develops into a strong attachment, 
which nevertheless does not become a normal passion. It remains 
a diffuse, gentle, discarnate if profound, emotion. True, he asks 
her to marry him, almost, it appears, because everyone expects him 
to do so, yet all he demands of the relation is companionship. He 
had previously offered to marry Nastasya, indeed, the very evening 
of his arrival in Petersburg, at the stormy gathering at her home. 
This was an act of pure compassion. Pity remains the major element 
in his love for Nastasya, even when, forced by the two contending 
women to choose between them, he leaves Aglaia for her. That 
choice, to his grief, is imposed upon him by the world. For himself, 
he sees no reason why he should not, after his own fashion, love 
both women at the same time. 

More than once Dostoevsky projected characters whose affec- 
tions were thus inclusive — "wide-hearted" he called them. But in 
Myshkin he imagined not an inherently polygamous man — rather a 
man who offered a love clear of all that makes it a selfish, exclusive 
passion, locking lover and beloved within a private chamber. Here 
he was embodying that ideal contrary to man's nature, the love 
that makes men "as the angels of heaven," on which he had medi- 
tated the night his first wife lay dead. The woman in the novel, on 
the other hand, love him in a earthly, possessive way, though Nasta- 


sya is ready to give him up for fear of making him unhappy. At the 
very end of the book Myshkin is told: "Aglaia Ivanovna loved you 
like a woman, like a human being, not like an abstract spirit. Do 
you know what, my poor prince, the most likely thing is that you've 
never loved either of them!" This is the opinion of a man of the 
world. The novel, while emphasizing the radiant fullness of Mysh- 
kin's love, which goes out to all whom he meets, nevertheless lends 
colour to the worldling's view. Repeatedly it is hinted that the prince 
is sexless and that his chastity is a matter of physical deficiency. Is 
this angel perhaps a eunuch? 

Certainly the angel has no flaming sword, no protecting pinion — 
at best he is an ineffectual one, beating his wings in the luminous 
void in vain. Raskolnikov had had a vision of an elect group of 
pure spirits who were to save distracted mankind and found a new 
race. Myshkin is one of those pure spirits, but, significantly, he has 
no issue. He enters the novel a young man, just emerged from the 
shadow of mental illness; he leaves it, his mind deranged beyond 
recovery. This exemplar of the Christian virtues has brought only 
destruction, not simply upon himself, but upon practically all with 
whom he comes in intimate contact. An embodiment of living grace 
and serenity that all the evil seething round him cannot quite sub- 
merge, he is himself an instrument of calamity. Nastasya is brutally 
murdered by Rogozhin. Myshkin foresaw the crime, but did not 
prevent it. Aglaia gives herself in marriage to a wretched impostor, 
a Pole to boot, and embraces Catholicism — as low a fall as Dosto- 
evsky could conceive. Was this train of disasters all that best of men 
could bring about? Generally, Dostoevsky sees grace as the ultimate 
gift of sin and suffering. Myshkin has come by his virtues gratu- 
itously and his anguish is no atonement for either his own or any- 
one else's sins. 

The novelist threw out the suggestion that the "fantastical'* 
quality of the Idiot, his inability to cope with reality, was natural 
in one belonging to a social class that had no roots in the native 
soil. Myshkin's case, then, would be, like Raskolnikov's, sympto- 
matic of the disease which, in Dostoevsky's opinion, was ravaging 
Russian society. But the novel scarcely bears out such an interpre- 
tation. The reader is more apt to perceive in Myshkin's failure the 
inevitable defeat of an impossible ideal by the world and the flesh. 


In The Idiot, as elsewhere, Dostoevsky is seen making an anguished 
effort to side with Christ against what he had once called "truth." 
He had never needed faith more desperately than during the bleak 
months when, in a strange and hated land, harassed by all his usual 
anxieties and, worse, bereaved of his first-born, he composed this 
work. The image of Myshkin must have been a light in his darkness, 
a shield against the powers of evil in his own soul. But he could not 
make it as fully present to others as to himself, and it wavered 
sometimes in his own mind. He was not ripe, as he admitted at the 
start, for the great task he had set himself. The book betrays the 
doubts, emphatic and unrefuted, crowding the author's heart. The 
novel is not wanting in the suggestion that the divine prototype of 
Myshkin also failed. Nature is represented as Christ's victorious 
enemy. Dostoevsky allows one of the characters to describe, in terms 
shocking to the religious sentiment, Holbein's picture of the dead 
Christ, which so disturbed him when he himself saw it in Basle. The 
agony of facing death is a theme that recurs here, now as the experi- 
ence of the condemned the moment before execution, now as the 
frantic rebellion of a boy in the last stages of consumption. Nowhere 
is there the remotest hint of the consolations of the Christian faith. 
This tumultuous, perplexing, profoundly ambiguous book is not 
the Imitado Christ! that its author had apparently intended it to be. 
But, with all its defects, it is a work exhibiting great psychological 
acumen, an astounding grasp of character, and, as a foil for melo- 
drama, genuine tragedy and awkward dialectics it offers moments 
of high comedy. Above all, Myshkin's personahty sheds a warmth 
and a radiance that make the book shine, however fitfully, like a 
good deed in a naughty world. 


So OFTEN the completion of a piece of work left Dostoevsky with 
a sense of failure. He felt acutely how far his imagination out- 
stripped his craftmanship. The Idiot was a case in point. The 
novel didn't express a fraction of what he had wanted to say, but 
there was no helping it now. How was his public reacting to it? 
What were the critics writing? In his isolation he could not know. 
As a matter of fact, they were content to say little about a Ix^ok 
that puzzled and discomfited them. The most ominous thing was 
that the publishers were in no hurry to bid for the rights to a separ- 
ate edition. 

The one good thing the new year brought them was the discovery 
that Anna was again pregnant. But how would they meet the ex- 
penses of her confinement, and what would they live on in the 
meantime? He was still in debt to Katkov, and he had no other 
source to look to for money. Besides, after all the many months of 
labour entailed by The Idiot, he needed a fallow period. And Emilia 
Fyodorovna was asking for a regular allowance, instead of casual 
remittances. That ancient enemy of his couldn't get it out of her 
head that he was obliged to support her and her family. 

By the time he had sent off the last part of the novel, they had 
been settled in Florence for two months. He had pleasant mem- 
ories of his visit there with Strakhov, and it proved a more con- 
genial place than Milan, not so much because of the chance of 
seeing again his beloved "Madonna della Sedia," as because of the 
Russian books and papers. The Florentine winter was mild: in Feb- 
ruary roses were blooming in the Boboli Gardens. But the damp, 
warm air was enervating, and he held it accountable for his frequent 
aUacks. Soon he would be facing the second anniversary of his 
European exile. This was worse than Siberia. There had been no 
such sunlight, no miraculous works of art at Omsk, but there, in 



the Asiatic wilderness, he had been at home, among his own people. 
He was not afraid that he would become assimilated, like Turgenev: 
he hated foreigners. But away from home he felt that he was losing 
the little strength, the little talent he possessed. 

By March things had come to such a pass that they had pawned 
their underwear, and if he had not been able to borrow two francs 
from a stranger, they might have perished in this foreign city. 
Maikov, the one man who could have kept him in touch with 
Russia, had stopped writing altogether. There wasn't a living soul 
on whom he could count. They had been forsaken by God and 
man. Again Katkov saved the situation by a remittance. But the 
money he sent was as usual insufficient, and Dostoevsky soon found 
himself appealing for more in payment for a new novel, which the 
review could start running in 1870. He had yet another prospect. 
Strakhov had become the editor of a new magazine, Zarya (Dawn), 
and Dostoevsky promised to give him a short piece, which could 
be tossed off without much effort and would not interfere with the 
larger work. He liked the notion of contributing to a periodical 
which, from the first, struck a clearly nationalist, anti-radical note. 
The advance would enable them, he thought, to leave Florence for 
some place where they would at least be familiar with the language, 
possibly Germany. 

It was spring now, and the city was getting hot. But the publish- 
er of Zarya was dilatory, and they were forced to stay on and on. 
July came, and they were still stranded there. In Switzerland Dosto- 
evsky had known the rigours of cold, now he was tasting the tor- 
ments of heat. He could only compare Florence to a Russian steam 
bath. The three of them, for Anna's mother was still with them, 
were crowded into one small room. The windows looked out on the 
stone arcades of a market place which at midday was like an oven. 
At night they were kept awake by people making merry in the streets, 
and with the dawn came the babble of market women and the 
braying of asses to keep them from sleep. Work was out of the 
question. As he watched the tourists parade the blazing streets — the 
city seemed to him much more crowded than when he had been 
there with Strakhov seven years previously — he marvelled that, 
having the price of the fare in their pockets, they stayed in this hell. 
Torn between boredom and irritation, he looked at everything with 


the eyes of a caged beast. What was this flower of cities but a prison? 
And a foul prison, too: twice he had the horrible experience of 
catching a tarantula in their room. 

Katkov came to the rescue once more, and the three were finally 
enabled to flee Italy. To break the journey, they stopped off at 
Venice, where Anna lost her fan, a mishap that made her cry like 
a child, and at Vienna, which he preferred to Paris. They had hoped 
to settle in Prague, where there would be a chance for him to get 
in contact with the Slav world, but lodgings proved too expensive, 
and so, early in August, they found themselves back in Dresden 
again, almost precisely two years after having left it (he was entered 
in the police records as *'a retired Russian lieutenant and rentier"). 

Away from Florence, Dostoevsky discovered that he had been 
unjust to it. Why, the heat had actually benefited him. Here in 
Dresden his epilepsy was worse, and he suffered from fever. It was 
already September, and he had not done a stitch of work either on 
the piece for Zarya or on the novel for Riissky vestnik. Further 
more, Anna's second pregnancy was a difficult one; she was ill, 
nervous, and terrified of dying in childbed. When he thought that 
they would have to expose the second baby to the Western methods 
of child rearing that had killed the first, he was in despair. No, no, 
they must go back to Russia, for the child's sake, for their own 
future, for his work, his work! Better debtors' prison at home than 
this empty freedom abroad. 

1 1 

On September 26 the child was born — a big, healthy, pretty baby. 
When he was registering his daughter's birth, he amazed the clerk 
by being unable to remember the mother's maiden name. It was 
plain that he was losing his memory. In announcing to Maikov the 
good news of the little Lubov's arrival, he confided that there were 
less than ten thalers in the house, and that neither the doctor nor 
the midwife had been paid. He dared not appeal to Katkov again, 
and so he turned to the publisher of Zarya. He could not let himself 
think what a refusal would mean. He would have to sell his over- 
coat, his suit, his underwear. Pasha and Emilia Fyodorovna would 
suffer too — mentally he had already set aside part of the money for 


There was yet another humiliation for him to swallow at this time. 
They were scarcely settled in Dresden when a letter from Maikov 
brought word that Aunt Kumanina had died, leaving a bequest of 
forty thousand roubles to a monastery. The exciting side of the 
news, as retailed by Maikov, was that, in the opinion of the execu- 
tor, the will could be successfully contested, since it had been made 
when the old lady was of unsound mind. This would mean ten 
thousand roubles for Dostoevsky and an equal sum for Mikhail's 
family. Maikov advised immediate action. Dostoevsky wrote at once 
to the executor for further information. He also sent the news to 
Sonia, saying that he considered her his conscience and asking what 
she thought it would be right for him to do in the matter. 

In due time he received a letter from Sonia telling him point- 
blank that she disapproved of this move. Further, there came a 
letter from his brother Andrey, the aunt's guardian, declaring that 
the old lady had no such fortune to bequeath, that there was no 
such clause in her will, and that, although she was quite off her 
head, she was otherwise hale and hearty. He said further that the 
annulment of the will would undoubtedly benefit all the Dostoev- 
skys, but it was not to be thought of. Andrey's words, too, implied 
that his brother was an unscruplous schemer. Apparently all the 
relatives had been apprised of the affair, and the wildest rumours 
concerning him were in circulation. A pretty kettle of fish! Here he 
was painted as a monster of greed and selfishness, ready to snatch 
the bread out of the mouths of orphans, when he had been weigh- 
ing so carefully the ethics of the step! True, he had told Maikov 
that if he did decide that it was right to act, he stood ready to bring 
suit on his own account as well as on that of the others — certainly 
he needed money sorely enough. But what had been his first 
thought? Mikhail's orphans. He had sacrificed the share of the in- 
heritance he had received earlier, to save the review for Mikhail's 
family. To pay their debts he had robbed his own wife and child. 
And what thanks, he asked himself privately, did he get for it? To 
be despised as their slave and hated as the author of their ruin. And 
so Sonia was looking down on him, too. This was a pleasant thought 
to brood on. 

A series of misunderstandings, as well as carelessness on the part 
of the publisher of Zarya, delayed some six weeks the arrival of the 


money Dostoevsky had asked for. In the meantime they were starv- 
ing. Anna, who was nursing the baby, had to pawn her last warm 
skirt, with the snow aheady on the ground, and in order to get two 
thaleis to send an urgent telegram to the publisher he had to raise 
money on his trousers. He could not bring himself to disclose all the 
shameful details of their situation. But worse than all these humilia- 
tions at the hands of strangers was the affront to his dignity from a 
man who knew who he was. The swine of a publisher was treating 
him like a flunkey. His heart was swollen with indignation. And 
after this, he wrote to Maikov, "people demand of me art, pure 
poetry, without strain, without poison, and point to Turgenev, to 
Goncharov! Let them look at the conditions under which I work." 

He did work in spite of everything, and when the worst period 
of stress was over, life fell more or less into the old lines. He rose 
at one o'clock, managed to do a little writing in the afternoon, went 
for a stroll through the gardens to the post office, which he so often 
left with empty hands, came home to dinner — there was one most 
of the time — and then took another walk to the library, where he 
devoured three Russian papers down to the last word. Not seldom 
the reading left him with the unhappy impression that things at 
home were not all that they should be. But he consoled himself 
with the thought that at this distance he was bound to misjudge 
the situation. 

From half past ten at night to five in the morning he was at his 
desk. He cursed this story he was writing — he had conceived a 
hatred for it from the beginning — but he kept at it. Early in Decem- 
ber it was finished, months late and five times as long as he had 
originally intended it to be. At least he had the comfort of being 
able to revise the manuscript as a whole. He had to wait for 
additional money from the publisher before he could send it otf: 
he wasn't able to pay the postage. 

He regarded The Eternal Husband as a diversion from his more 
serious literary pursuits. Indeed, the story, or rather short novel, 
travels light. A provincial official discovers after his wife's death 
that she had had a series of lovers, one of whom, Velchaninov, 
fathered the little girl he has brought up fondly as his only child. 
The cuckold is presented as the uxorious, henpecked husband born 
to be deceived. The lover is the typical gay deceiver caught, how- 


ever, in a moment of physical and spiritual distress that ill befits 
his character as Don Juan. The interest centres upon the husband. 
His habitual self-restraint gone, he arrives in Petersburg with the 
child, ostensibly on business, but actually on an errand of ven- 
geance. He tracks down Velchaninov, and there ensues a psycho- 
logical duel between the two men, which forms the substance of the 
narrative. The thrusts made by the cuckold, the parries of the 
lover, all the moves they execute in obedience to their ambiguous 
impulses, make an absorbing spectacle. There are few passages in 
Dostoevsky's work that are written with greater subtlety, penetra- 
tion, and dramatic power, and none in which the role of the uncon- 
scious in human behaviour is more clearly grasped. It is suggestive 
that he should have called the chapter that exhibits this understand- 
ing most fully, "Analysis." 

Naturally, it is possible to see a reflection of certain of the 
author's personal experiences in the story. Toward the end of it the 
cuckold, who thinks of marrying again, takes Velchaninov to visit 
the family of the girl to whom he hopes to become engaged; he wants 
to show the man that he too can conquer a heart; he wants to parade 
his clever friend before the family; he must test the behaviour of 
this lady in the presence of a brilliant man of the world; and, per- 
haps, secretly from himself, he is strangely tempted to put himself 
again in the shameful position in which he had been placed years 
previously by the same Velchaninov. The family on whom the two 
men call is largely patterned on the Ivanov household, with its jolly 
crowd of young people who made the summer of 1866 so pleasant 
for Dostoevsky. The character of the cuckold's dead wife in some 
particulars remotely recalls that of Dostoevsky's first wife. Indeed, 
it has been suggested that the story is anchored in his relations with 
Marya Dmitrievna, that is in effect a cuckold's confession, and 
also a repudiation of the attitude he had adopted toward his rival 
at the time when he was courting her. Some colour is lent to these 
notions by the fact that he conceived the story shortly after his 
wife's death; yet they remain wholly conjectural. It is not necessary 
to assume such a basis for this anatomy of cuckoldry. His interest 
in every form of humiliation was suflFicient to draw him to such a 
subject, and he needed but the shadow of an actual experience to 
release his imagination. 



The year and a half that remained of this second exile saw no 
relief from the old miseries of want, worry, ill health, and isolation. 
As before, he took refuge from them in his work, upon which he 
spent all the intensity of which his nature was capable. 

A new idea had begun to haunt him while he was still busy with 
the final chapters of The Idiot. As a matter of fact, he had been 
thinking about it for a year or so. It was a project for a colossal 
novel on atheism. The pivotal figure was to be a staid, comfortable 
member of the middle class who, at the age of forty-five, suddenly 
loses his faith. In his quest for God he was to mingle with all 
manner of people, to search the hearts and explore the minds of 
nihilists, monks, sectarians. Catholics, Orthodox priests. In the end 
he was to recover his faith and establish it on the Russian Christ. 
Here Dostoevsky felt he would say his final word. If only he could 
write this book, he would be content to die. If he did not write it, 
it would torture him to death. But he was not ready for it yet: he 
must first read a whole library of religious and anti-religious works. 
And in any case, it wasn't the sort of thing he could write abroad. 

In the fallow months that followed the completion of The Idiot 
his mind kept returning to this mighty theme. Several characters 
took shape in his head, among them an ardent Catholic, modelled 
somewhat on Loyola's right-hand man. Saint Francis Xavier, the 
Apostle of the Indies. All that Dostoevsky had done until now he 
dismissed as "trash and introduction," compared to the titanic 
"parable of atheism" he was planning. He would give the rest of 
his life to it. As he brooded over the thing, it altered, so that by the 
time he had finished The Eternal Husband he saw the novel still 
as a work on a tremendous scale and concerned with the problem, 
which was his lifelong torment, of the existence of God, but he had 
conceived a new plot. It was to be the life of a great sinner, from 
his unhappy childhood through years of transgression and crime 
to his final regeneration. E>ostoevsky first touched upon this theme 
of redemption in the last pages of Crime and Punishment; it 
coloured faintly his original drafts for The Idiot. Now that he was 
seeing it more clearly, he decided to make it the cornerstone of a 


vast work. He would break this up into three, or possibly five, 
novels which, though connected with one another, could be pub- 
lished separately. 

The first one would deal with the hero's early years. The illegiti- 
mate son of a landowner of gentle birth, the motherless boy is en- 
trusted to the care of strangers. They are a corrupt and dissolute 
couple, who disgust him. The child withdraws into himself. From 
the first he instinctively feels that he is destined for great things. 
Books help him to escape into a dream world. The sensitive, re- 
fractory boy has as companion a crippled little girl. He is in the 
habit of beating her, yet he confides to her his most private thoughts. 
Already the question of the existence of God frets him. "I am God," 
he tells her, and forces her to worship him. Later, together with the 
little cripple, he goes to live with his father and stepmother. Accused 
by her of a theft he had not committed, and whipped by his father, 
he repudiates him and takes refuge in the servant's quarters. The 
stepmother has a lover and the boy witnesses their love-making. 
The father knows that his bastard knows he is a cuckold. Then the 
boy watches his father being done to death by his own serfs ("Alas 
poor ghost!"). Boarding schools: Souchard's, Chermak's (Dostoev- 
sky's old schools). Further humiliation and injustices. The boy de- 
spises adults and seeks deliberately to earn their disapproval. He tests 
himself, and tries to purge himself of fear and to develop will power. 
He resolves to become rich, so as to gain power and also the right 
to scorn people. But is power worth having? At moments "the pure 
ideal of the free man flashes before him." He runs away from school 
and becomes involved in a murder. Back in Moscow, he falls in 
with a schoolmate, a lad of French parentage and corrupt to the 
marrow. The two plunge into debauchery. With this companion 
he steal the jewels out of an icon frame. In court he declares himself 
an atheist, and is committed to a monastery for correction. 

Part two: "The Monastery." Here the routine of monastic life is 
to be carefully set forth. What a chance to show the strength and 
beauty of the Russian spirit! All manner of men inhabit monasteries 
and visit them. There will be an opportunity to introduce monks of 
militant piety, sectarians, characters modelled on Belinsky, perhaps 
on Pushkin. But the centre of the stage is to be occupied by a saintly 
old churchman living in retirement, and the delinquent boy, "a 


wolf cub and a nihilist." An affection grows up between the two, 
though sometimes the lad torments his aged friend. The latter 
preaches meekness and extols "the living life," but with little 
effect. Indeed, the boy's unbelief becomes "organized" in the 
monastery. He leaves it unregenerate. Still clinging to his dream of 
wealth as a source of power, he believes that he is destined to be- 
come the greatest of men, and he treats everyone with disdain. What 
he has learned from his saintly mentor is that in order to conquer 
the world he must first conquer himself. 

The titles of the three subsequent novels are: "Before Exile"; 
"Satan and the Female"; "High Deeds." The hero has a long, 
arduous road to travel before he achieves salvation. His difficult 
pilgrimage will offer an opportunity to present a panorama of 
Russian life, and be the more meaningful because he yields to the 
temptations of the intellect as well as those of the flesh. 

So much can, with some difficulty, be gathered from the few 
rough jottings for The Life of the Great Sinner extant and from a 
letter to Maikov. It is also evident that Dostoevsky had a definite 
idea as to the style that he would use. He would give up his usual 
dramatic effects and write with the quiet simplicity that marks the 
nameless lives of saints which had cast their serene light over his 
own boyhood. In fact, it was to be just such an edifying story, every 
incident in it, however vile, carrying some hint of the grace to come, 
the final victory of the spirit. 

Significantly enough, while the outline offers a vigorous sketch 
of the sinner, the saint is left blurred and unreal: no acceptable 
psychological clue to the hero's reformation is given. Whatever 
Dostoevsky said or felt to the contrary, he was not now, nor was 
he ever to be, sufficiently at peace to undertake this tranquil and 
pious tale. Certainly the epic tone was not in accord with the exigen- 
cies of his temperament either as a man or a writer. The Life of a 
Great Sinner went unwritten. It remained, however, a source that 
fed all his subsequent work. Traces of it are present even in the 
novel of a totally different tenor to which he now turned. 

I V 

While he was brooding over The Life of a Great Sinner he was 
at the same time planning another novel. He owed one to Katkov, 


who had been supporting him all this time, and the hour was not 
ripe nor his situation propitious for undertaking the more signifi- 
cant work. He felt that he had struck a rich vein, and he was work- 
ing it with ease and pleasure. Surely the novel would be ready by 
the autumn of 1870. He would not try, he decided after some hesita- 
tion, to make it important as art; it was to be simply a pamphlet. 
Once and for all he would pour out his wrath upon the traitors 
to the Russian people and the Russian God, and let literature go 

The new year, 1870, found the couple without resources, and 
with many of their belongings in pawn. How would they manage 
until the autumn? They had had to keep postponing the baby's 
baptism because there was no money to pay for the ceremony. At 
least there was one great expectation: Pasha, yes, the impossible 
Pasha, armed with power of attorney, was trying to arrange for a 
separate edition of The Idiot. It would mean a thousand roubles! 
January passed, February . . . had he embezzled the money? Had 
he lent it to a boon companion? The boy was always full of wild 
schemes and crazy ambitions. In desperation Dostoevsky offered 
a novel to Zarya, asking for a sizeable advance. It would be the 
first part of The Life of a Great Sinner. He would do his best with it, 
even if he had to write it abroad. 

By March it transpired that Pasha's negotiations had come to 
nothing. And Kashpirev, the publisher of Zarya, was silent. And 
the grocery was refusing credit. And the baby was teething. And 
Maikov was writing that The Eternal Husband struck him as some- 
what forced. So it was plain, then, that he was losing his grip! Life 
was closing in around him. He must escape somehow. At the end 
of April, he was off to Homburg and the tables. 

This time Anna's distress was increased by the fact that she had 
to conceal the nature of his trip both from her mother, who was 
still with them, and from her brother, who had recently arrived 
in Dresden. The money he gambled away must have been part of 
the advance which finally came from Zarya. The publisher had sent 
him five hundred roubles and promised to remit a hundred roubles 
monthly. The very first remittance having failed to arrive on time, 
the wolf was soon again at the door and, to make matters worse, 
the baby took sick. I>ostoevsky managed, however, to work away 


at the novel for Katkov, but his heart was no longer in it. There was 
some fatal flaw in the thing. He was sorry he had begun it. He would 
much rather have busied himself with something else. And would 
Russky vestnik print his drivel? If only he could get back to Russia! 

Summer brought Vv'ith it a series of violent attacks, the like of 
which he had not had for a long time. For a month work was out 
of the question. When he was able to get back to his desk, he sud- 
denly perceived what was wrong with the novel. And then in a 
flash he saw a new plot with a new hero. After a fortnight of agoniz- 
ing indecision he made up his mind: he put aside the entire pile of 
sheets — over two thousand roubles' worth of copy — and began the 
whole thing afresh. It was a truly heroic decision. As August had 
already set in, it was obvious that he would not get through with the 
novel by Christmas, as he had hoped. In fact, there was no telling 
when he would finish it. And what of the novel he had promised 
to Zarya, and on which he had taken such a large advance? Well, 
those people would have to wait, or else have their money refunded, 
whenever he could scrape it together. What was much worse, he had 
managed to disappoint Katkov, and that after he had solemnly 
promised to hand in copy in time for publication during the year. 
Would not the long-suffering man at last tire of his procrastinations 
and throw him over? In any event, there was to be another winter 
of exile. 

Another winter, besides, of pinching and worrying, and trem- 
bling over every thaler. Oh, if he could have an assured livelihood 
for two or three years, like Turgenev or Tolstoy, he could write a 
thing about which people would be talking a century hence. His 
new project was so fine, so rich in meaning, that he was awed by it 
himself. But he knew he was going to ruin it in his haste and turn 
out a half-baked product. He had the vision and the fire, but where 
was leisure and peace in which to shape his stupendous imagin- 
ings? Meanwhile, he worked away fiercely. He kept changing the 
plot and recasting what he had written. It was a task like Penelope's. 
He piled up such a mountain of notes that he could no longer find 
his way among them. It was only on October 19 that he was able 
to send off the first chapters. They appeared in the issue of Russky 
vestnik for January, 1871, as the first instalment of The Possessed. 
Two further instalments in February and April completed Part 


One. He confided to Sonia that he had written this first part at least 
twenty times. None of his novels had cost him such excruciating 

Do what he might, the work would not satisfy him. How could 
he accomplish anything when the hunger for Russia was tearing at 
his vitals? It frightened him to see what homesickness was doing 
to Anna. She missed the good black bread, the deep drifts, the 
creak of the sledges gliding over the hard-packed snow, the boom- 
ing of the bells, so different from the thin chimes of Western 
churches. What was worse, she was fretting over affairs at home — 
the family real estate, a share of which was to come to her, was, she 
knew, badly mismanaged in her mother's absence. Besides, in 
Petersburg she might add a bit to their income by doing a little 
stenography in her spare time. The baby, though amiable and 
possessed of a healthy appetite, was a drain on her energies, since 
she nursed it herself and wanted the domestic help that was so easy 
to secure at home. I>ostoevsky was sure that if they were only in 
Russia, her apathy and exhaustion would vanish. 

Communications from home reached him seldom and generally 
in a roundabout way. The most staggering piece of news was that 
Pasha was about to be married. It was hard to believe it. What 
changes these four years must have wrought in the boy he had left 
behind! Pasha, steadily employed, settling down, and with a nice 
girl, too! Dostoevsky was filled with pity and fear when he thought 
how young the two of them were, how unprepared for their venture, 
how little he could do in a material way to help them. In reply to 
what he called Pasha's "romance in several parts," announcing the 
news, he wrote his stepson a long, tender, if somewhat sententious 
letter. He warned the young man of the seriousness of the step he 
contemplated, of the necessity for mutual respect; spoke of the in- 
fluence of a good woman as a man's "second and final education"; 
urged him to continue his studies, so as to be worthy of that gifted, 
cultivated, and lovable man, his father, whom physically he so 
much resembled. 

The bleakness of the winter was increased by the war, which had 
been raging since July. If the siege of Paris added to the excitement 
of living, high prices and straitened credits made hardships for 
everybody, not least for a poverty-stricken foreigner. When the war 


was young, Dostoevsky, who was not a pacifist either by nature or 
conviction, was inclined to look at it with a hopeful eye. Perhaps 
it would prove a healthy stimulant and, among other things, rescue 
science from the morass of materialism. Disaster might rouse even 
the French to new life. Perhaps Russia would begin to see through 
the Germans and abandon its traditional Germanophile policy. His 
sympathies were vaguely with the French, not because he liked 
them more than he did the Germans, but because he hated them a 
little less. As the war dragged on, month after month, he was in- 
creasingly irritated by the jingoism of the people among whom he 
was living. He heard, so he wrote home, a white-haired savant 
shout: ''Paris muss bombardiert sein!" So that was the fine fruit of 
Western learning. The Prussians owed their victory to their school- 
masters. What an obscene thought! The schoolmasters had raised 
a generation worthy of Attila. 

Sometimes the small shopkeepers with whom he dealt would 
show him letters their sons had written from the front. It wasn't 
those sick and hungry lads under fire who were shouting for blood. 
No, it was the professors, the banner-bearers of culture, who clam- 
oured for the triumph of brute force! Who says "young Germany"? 
On the contrary, a dead people. And France, too, would go to the 
dogs, unless a strict ruler were somehow put into power there. At 
heart Dostoevsky cried: a plague on both their houses! The future 
lay with Russia. She must prepare for the inevitable conflict over 
the Balkan Slavs. She must build roads, fortresses, add at least a 
million rifles to her equipment, take thought for taxes and military 
service. (His military education had not been wholly lost on him). 
Russia's strength was her spiritual unity. But she must become fully 
conscious of her high mission, must bring back the true Orthodox 
faith to a blind world that has denied Christ. The whole of Russian 
history was an epic of Orthodoxy. True, the present age with the 
decay of the nobility and the general disintegration that followed the 
freeing of the serfs was a sad passage. But look ahead two hundred 
years: look at Russia in the glory of her full stature, of her spiritual 
maturity, beside a Europe brutalized and undone! Russia would yet 
spread the gospel of love, though she had to beat her ploughshares in- 
to swords to do it. He clung to his convictions with more passion than 
consistency. Did he once ask himself how far the Idiot, his 


Christ — man, would have assented to this programme of prepared- 

He was far from writing anything like The Idiot at this date. 
He was struggling like a madman with that savage satire. The 
Possessed. He wasn't sure where it would take him, but it was a 
mighty, exhilarating effort in an otherwise dreary existence. Dres- 
den was as alien to him as when they had first come there. They 
had made some acquaintances among the many Russians settled 
in the city. The expatriates only made him feel how far he was 
from home. It was horrible to find that the children in some fam- 
ilies did not know their native tongue. Contacts with the Russian 
colony were only an annoyance to him. When one compatriot 
called twice to discuss the state of Russian literature with him he re- 
fused to see her. Confound Russian literature! He was killing him- 
self to get his copy out on time for Russky vestnik. 

This exile must be brought to an end! He had been telling 
Maikov and others that he had fled abroad to save his health, to 
escape his creditors. The real reason why Anna had snatched him 
away from his Petersburg circle had somehow been obliterated 
from his mind. But now he was willing to face the worst at home 
rather than endure another year abroad. He had figured that they 
would need at least seven thousand roubles to return to Russia. 
Next he set the sum at three thousand, then at two thousand. Now 
he decided that one thousand must sufl^ce. It might mean debtors' 
prison, but was that worse than Dresden? He would brave the 
consequences of the step. There was one circumstance which raised 
his hopes of securing this sum: it would come from a new edition 
of Crime and Punishment, issued by Stellovsky at the end of 1870. 
But it soon became clear that the money would not be forthcom- 
ing without a lawsuit. 

A few weeks before Easter he dreamed that he was talking to 
Aunt Kumanina in her drawing-room, when he noticed that the 
pendulum of the clock had stopped swinging. He went over and 
pushed it, but after two or three strokes it stopped again. Dosto- 
evsky took his dreams seriously. Once when he had a mysterious 


dream about a full moon dividing into three parts and giving 
birth to a shield with a halo, he asked all his friends to interpret 
it for him. On the present occasion he recounted his dream to an 
acquaintance, who suggested that he inquire about the old lady, 
and indeed he soon learned that she had died. As he had long 
since received his share of the inheritance, this event was of no 
immediate consequence to him. 

Again it was Katkov who saved them. He sent a remittance at 
Easter and promised the necessary thousand by June. But would 
the money come in time? Anna was expecting to be confined again 
in July or August, so that the slightest delay would force them 
to remain in Dresden and inflict another year of exile upon them. 
They rejoiced over the baby's coming. This time it must be a boy. 
They joked happily about the future of "Mr. N.N." But the fear 
of another year abroad left Dostoevsky too worried to work, and 
he was ill himself. Spring brought on a series of attacks, which 
were followed by long periods of intolerable spiritual anguish, as 
was always the case when the seizures came after a long interval. 
He took one hundred and twenty thalers and went to Wiesbaden. 

All fell out as usual: he lost everything and had to beg Anna 
to send him the fare that would take him home. He swore to him- 
self that he would not risk that money. The day it arrived there was 
fear in his heart. The previous night he had dreamed of his father, 
seeing him in the same terrifying guise in which he had appeared 
only on two previous occasions, each time boding calamity. Futher- 
more, shortly before that he had dreamed that Anna's hair had 
turned white. 

With the fare in his pocket, he wandered into the casino just to 
watch the play. Ten times running he guessed the outcome correctly. 
After that, could he hold back? Hov/ fine it would be if he could 
bring home even a small sum! And for a whole year he had been 
wanting to redeem Anna's ear-rings. At nine-thirty he left the rooms 
half crazed: the last pfennig was gone. 

He found himself running to the Russian priest: To clear his 
soul? To confess? He hardly knew. It was dark, the streets were 
strange, he lost his way. Was this the Russian church? No, it was 
a synagogue. He was brought up short, went home, and wrote to 
Anna. He must have another thirty thalers. By what shall he 


swear that he will not take them to the tables? He has deceived 
her once. She has the right to despise him. But she must believe 
him now. He is not utterly mad. Now he will work, work for her, 
for Lubochka, for "Mr. N.N." One thing is certain: a new life is 
dawning for them all. A miracle has been vouchsafed him. The 
abominable fantasy that has tormented him for ten years has been 
swept away. It had fastened itself upon him, kept him from think- 
ing of his work for nights on end — now he is blessedly free of 
it, and forever. In the past, only half of him had belonged to 
Anna. The other half had been given to that accursed passion. 
Now he is wholly hers. Of course, things would not be easy at 
once. There would again be trips to the pawnshop, but not many. 
He would write to Katkov. Soon they would be back home and 
make a fresh beginning. 

His only worry was Anna. How would she raise the money 
again for the fare back, and how would she explain matters to 
her mother? He made up a story for her to tell the old lady: he 
had had an attack, soiled the mattress, and in his embarrassment 
paid for a new one. In his last letter he warned her that as he 
could not afford meals on the way, he would come home hungry. 
Would she not have at least a bite ready for him? And, out of 
Christian charity, also a package of cigarettes? 

Anna could not have taken very seriously his vows to renounce 
the tables — she had heard such protestations too often. But this 
time, as events were to prove, he spoke truly. The mad dream had 
inexplicably lost its old power over him. He never gambled again. 
Dostoevsky has furnished no clue as to how he found release from 
his obsession. In The Gambler, which dates from the period before 
the passion had taken complete hold of him, he imagined a man 
unable to free himself from it. In A Raw Youth, which was writ- 
ten some three years after he played for the last time, he has his 
young hero take a fling at roulette, but soon escape the spell of 
the tables. The boy is aware that gambling gives him an acute joy 
"filtered through torture," one of those ambivalent emotions which 
Dostoevsky was the first to depict with such insight. The youth tells 
himself, when his fever is at its height, that if he sticks to the game, 
it is simply to test the strength of his will, for he believes that "if 
one has perfect control of one's will, so that the subtlety of one's 


intelligence and one's power of calculation are preserved, one can- 
not fail to overcome the brutality of blind chance and to win. . . ." 
This idea of defeating chance by calculation is obviously the essence 
of Dostoevsky's Wiesbaden "system." The idea is strangely out of 
character and throws no light either on the origin or the passing 
of his gambling mania. 

When he returned to Dresden, it was hard to resume work. There 
was the fearful uncertainty as to whether Katkov would send the 
money in time for them to make the great removal. And along with 
their private unrest there was the public excitement of those May 
weeks. He had foreseen a conflict in France between town and coun- 
try, and now civil war had indeed broken out, but it was between 
the Paris Commune led by communists, socialists, and that lot, on 
the one hand, and the rest of France, on the other. 

Writing to Strakhov two days after the slaughter of the Com- 
munards was over and Marshal MacMahon had declared law and 
order restored, Dostoevsky reflected on the lesson of the Commune. 
Its failure, he felt, was rooted in the very nature of socialism. Those 
men had to fail. Reason could never rebuild the world. It was a 
treacherous guide through the tangle of desires and impulses that 
make up man. Christ was literally the only Saviour. The downfall 
of the West was the direct consequence of the fact that under the 
tutelage of the Roman Catholic Church men had forsaken Him. If 
Belinsky (how this ghost haunted him!) had lived to see the burning 
of Paris by the Communards, he would have said: "That's a digres- 
sion — wait, mankind will yet build its life on rational principles 
and win happiness." He would have gone further: he would have 
blamed the failure of the Commune not on socialism, but on nation- 
alism, on its being a French Commune. Why, he wanted to see 
Russia a "vacant nation, capable of putting itself at the head of a 
common human enterprise"! What a madman! He had cursed 
Christ in unprintable words. But whom would Belinsky set up in 
His place? Oh, the little soul, the mean, obtuse, self-satisfied crea- 
ture that he was, this typical liberal — full of hatred, impatience, 
irritation, and petty self-love, self-love above all. Even as a critic 
he lacked the true flair. 

The venom sputtered from Dostoevsky's pen, as he poured him- 
self out to Strakhov. He was like a man wrestling with a demon, like 


Luther flinging his inkpot at the devil's head. But this devil was no 
black fiend with horns and a tail — it was a slender, pale, consump- 
tive little man with big eyes, it was his old mentor, or was it an- 
other small, pallid, fervent person — the young Fyodor Dostoevsky? 
He wrote wildly, savagely, with hatred, impatience, irritation, per- 
haps with self -hate above all. 

But now he could forget the Communards and the Catholics, 
the vapid French and the abominable Germans. They were going 
home! The money had arrived from Katkov in time. They paid 
their debts, redeemed their belongings, burnt as many papers as 
possible for fear of being held up at the frontier, and at long last 
shook the dust of Dresden from their feet. 

On July 9, 1871, they arrived in Petersburg. It a was clear, warm 
day. As they drove past the Trinity Cathedral, where their marriage 
had been solemnized, they muttered a prayer, and the baby, imi- 
tating her parents, made the sign of the cross. In the four years 
that they had been away, the city had scarcely changed. And what 
had those years done to him? They had visited him with 
poverty, isolation, sickness, death, but he saw now that through it all 
he had lived deeply and intensely. His faith had been tried in those 
fires. He believed. Or at least he wanted desperately to believe, 
without apologies or qualifications, in the simple whole-hearted 
fashion of the peasant who worships the miracle-working icon. The 
future was full of uncertainties. He was practically beginning hfe 
again, and that at fifty. Between him and destitution stood sixty 
roubles and the contents of two trunks. But no matter. He had 
something to say. A word that clamoured for utterance. If only he 
had time, if only he had peace in which to shape it, so that it would 
come clear and resonant, for Russia, for the world to hear! 


THE FIRST days at home were hectic. To the fatigues of the 
journey were added the troubles incidental to settling in a 
furnished flat. Anna was helpless. The baby needed constant 
attention. And, of course, there was a descent of friends and rela- 
tives. It was a comfort to find that Emilia Fyodorovna was now in 
reasonably comfortable circumstances, with both her boys earning 
money. The widow appeared to have come to realize that her 
brother-in-law had a family of his own to care for. Pasha, on the 
other hand, though now a married man, still seemed to expect help 
from his stepfather. 

Just a week after their arrival, Anna presented her husband 
with a son, whom they named Fyodor after him. Chaos reigned in 
the two dingy rooms, which were crowded with the accouchee, 
the infant, the baby, an incompetent domestic, and the harassed 
father, when he wasn't out running errands. Under these condi- 
tions, how could he think of work? Especially since he was in 
momentary expectation of an attack, brought on by excitement 
and lack of sleep. 

Gradually matters righted themselves. Katkov was as always a 
very present help in time of trouble. They were able to rent a small 
flat and to furnish it on the instalment plan. Anna had to buy 
practically everything: her pots and pans, which had been left 
with a friend, were gone; her china and glass, including some pre- 
cious heirlooms, which had been deposited with her sister, had been 
broken by a careless maid; their winter things, left in pawn, had 
been forfeited by Mikhail's quondam mistress; Pasha had disposed 
of the library, and of the other objects entrusted to his care returned 
only two icons minus their silver mountings. He had, after all, not 
changed much. He was now proposing that he and his bride should 
live with them. He was told to shift for himself. The untried young 



girl, who had known when to snatch her husband away from his 
demanding relatives, had learned in the bitter years abroad how to 
hold her own against them. Her friends found her aged and re- 
proached her for her dowdiness. She was indifferent. If she looked 
older than her years and was not attractive to other men, so much the 
better: it would save Fyodor a jealous pang. And saving him, guard- 
ing him, that was her one care. 

What she had now chiefly to protect him against was the credi- 
tors. As soon as his return became known, they swooped down 
upon him. They cursed, they wept, they threatened to attach the 
furniture, they talked about debtors' prison. Dostoevsky would come 
back from an interview with them tearing his hair and on the verge 
of an attack. Then Anna took matters in hand and faced unaided 
the swarm of boorish retired oflScers, tearful widows, and insolent 
shyster lawyers who had bought up the promissory notes and were 
now coming to collect. She explained coolly that they could not 
attach the furniture because, being bought on the instalment plan, 
it still belonged to the shopkeeper, that all the family possessions 
were in her name, and that if they chose to send Dostoevsky to 
debtors' prison, he would go, and they would have the pleasure of 
paying his keep until his time was out, as was customary. 

The creditors gave in and exchanged the promissory notes for 
agreements involving payment in instalments. Anna was counting 
on money from real estate which she had inherited earlier, but of 
which she was only now to come into possession. There was another 
cruel disappointment in store here. Through the carelessness and 
dishonesty of those who had been managing the property for her, 
it proved a dead loss. She succeeded in getting stenographic work, 
as she had hoped all along, but it was out of town, and she was 
forced to give it up for the sake of her husband's peace of mind: he 
was of too jealous a disposition to tolerate it. He was perhaps excus- 
ing himself when he wrote in The Brothers Karamazov that among 
the jealous "are men of noble hearts." As a result all that they had 
to depend on for their living and the payment of the debts were his 
literary labours and her managerial skill. 

Dostoevsky took more than one flying trip to Moscow to see 
Katkov, and spent New Year's Eve at his sister Vera's as he had 


five years previously. How sad and shabby everything was there 
now! He tried not to dine there, so as to avoid adding to the 
household expenses of the orphaned family. There were his own 
worries, too, and plenty of indignities, but he was in his element 
again, at home, among his own, no longer living on print and mem- 
ories, as he had been doing all these years. And at last there were 
like-minded people with whom he could discuss the ideas about 
which he felt so strongly. There were Maikov and Strakhov, and 
he made a few new contacts now. He fell in with Danilevsky, 
whom he had not seen since the days of the Petrashevsky 
circle. The man had written a remarkable book, Russia and 
Europe, which had stirred Dostoevsky deeply when he had read it 
in Florence. Here was someone who saw eye to eye with him in the 
matter of the superior genius and high destiny of the Russian 

As the season wore on, Dostoevsky even ventured to give a dinner 
or two. He regularly attended Prince Meshchersky's Wednesdays 
where, among the most distinguished people he met was a lean, cool- 
eyed, scholarly-looking man. Senator Pobedonostzev. The eminent 
jurist, formerly tutor to the crown prince, was to acquire sinister 
fame as the power behind the throne when his quondam pupil be- 
came emperor. The fact that this learned dignitary had recently 
translated The Imitation of Christ must have made him all the more 
interesting to Dostoevsky, and, indeed, in spite of a fundamental 
difference in their natures — Pobedonostzev was stern, hard, and 
utterly consistent in his conservatism — the two had much in common 
and were soon on a friendly footing. The senator, like Dostoevsky, 
was hostile to the political institutions of the West and to the ration- 
alist spirit informing them. Although the gentry had a place in his 
scheme of things, he too pinned his faith to the instinctive virtues 
of the peasantry, which he regarded as the bulwark of the Orthodox 
Church and the autocratic State. Back of it all was a distrust of 
human nature, which Dostoevsky shared to a greater extent than he 

That first winter brought an impressive proof of the novelist's 
growing fame. The Moscow Maecenas, Tretyakov, commissioned 
the already renowned Perov to paint Dostoevsky 's portrait for his 


private gallery. Before taking up his brushes, the painter visited 
the flat on Serpukhovskaya Street every day for a week. Dostoev- 
sky talked to him freely and by the time he sat down to pose he 
was quite at his ease. When the painting was completed, Anna 
who had been present during the sittings, saw on the canvas not 
the jealous husband, or the anxious paterfamilias, or the plagued 
debtor, or the mad gambler who had made her life more miser- 
able than she was ever willing to admit. She saw the man whom 
she would surprise in his study, so absorbed in his own thoughts 
that ne would afterwards deny her having entered the room. What- 
ever the merits of Perov's portrait as a work of art, he produced 
an authentic and satisfying image of the novelist: the broad should- 
ers are slightly bowed; there is coarse strength in the hands, in spite 
of the narrow wrists and long fingers; the face, framed in thinning 
hair and a soft straggling beard, is waxen, big-browed, sensitive; 
the temples are hollowed, and there are lines of suffering under the 
sombre, smouldering, inquisitorial eyes — the eyes of a man bent 
inward upon himself. 

If the winter had its satisfactions and interests, with the turn of 
the season fortune turned, too. The family gave up their flat and 
rented a little house for the summer at Staraya Russa, a town some 
one hundred and fifty miles away, among the lakes c»f the Novgorod 
province, which, what with the mineral waters and the bathing, was 
something of a health resort, and cheap. They went all this distance 
not so much for the sake of the unweaned infant, who might have 
taken a prize at a baby show, but for Luba, who at two and a half 
was frail and thin, and whom her father loved ''more than anything 
else in the world." The day after their arrival they discovered an 
alarming bump on her wrist — she had sprained it before they came 
away. The local doctor said it was no sprain but a fracture, and the 
bones had not grown together properly. There was nothing for it 
but to return at once to Petersburg for an operation, leaving the 
infant behind to get along as best he could on cow's milk. The op- 
eration went off successfully, and Dostoevsky returned alone to his 
two treasures at Staraya Russa: the baby and the manuscript of 
The Possessed. During the fortnight that Anna had to stay in the 
hospital, watching Luba every moment to see that she did not 
break the cast, she learned that her only sister had died abroad 


and had to witness the scene when the news was broken to her sick 


Fretting over how Anna and little Luba were faring, Dostoev- 
sky was dreadfully unhappy. Staraya Russa was a dirty hole. The peo- 
ple, he wrote to his wife, were "terribly queer, stupid and coarse" 
(no better than the Germans or the Swiss?). The heavy rains had 
turned the town into a sea of mud. There was nothing to read. Work 
was impossible. Life was so boring that if it weren't for the baby he 
would go mad. He almost regretted the absence of attacks: they 
would be at least a distraction. The night after he wrote this to 
Anna he had a violent seizure. He kept on having bad dreams: surely 
they must be in for a run of ill luck. 

Indeed, no sooner did Anna come back to Staraya Russa than 
she was taken sick, and was so sure that she was dying that she said 
her last farewells to her family. But she recovered, and during the 
rest of the summer the fates were kind, so that Dostoevsky could 
keep steadily at his work. Dissatisfied with what he had done on the 
third (and last) part of the novel, which had occupied him since the 
beginning of the year, he rewrote it completely. It was only finished 
in the autumn, and appeared in the issues of Russky vestnik for 
November and December, 1872, after an interval of nearly a year. 


On November 26, 1869, the body of a young man, with stones 
tied to the head and feet was discovered in a pond on the grounds 
of the Moscow Agricultural Academy. Investigation disclosed that 
the youth, a student at the Academy, had been a member of a cell 
of a secret revolutionary society and that he had been killed four 
days previously by his comrades. The leading spirit of the organiza- 
tion, the initiator and the chief perpetrator of the crime was one 
Sergey Nechayev. 

Dostoevsky first became acquainted with the case through the 
Russian newspapers in the Dresden library. Anna's brother, a stu- 
dent at the Agricultural Academy, who had come to Dresden several 
weeks before the murder, does not seem to have known the victim 
and could only tell his brother-in-law something about the temper of 


the students at the college. Murders always fascinated Dostoevsky, 
and this one had a special interest for him. It was just as he had 
predicted. This was what nihilism led to. It was bound to result in 
wanton killing. Here was the very stuff for a book against the revolu- 
tionists, a savage lampoon, a lash with which to flay the rebels 
against the human and divine order. Although the earliest reference 
to a story he was writing, in the nature of a political pamphlet, occurs 
in a letter dated April 5, 1870, he appears to have been planning a 
novel of the revolution before he ever heard of the Nechayev case. 
Without this event, however. The Possessed would either never have 
come into being or would have been a different book. 

The trial of Nechayev's followers — he was himself in hiding 
abroad — was under way in Petersburg when Dostoevsky returned 
from Dresden. The proceedings were fully reported in the papers, 
for the first time in a case of this kind, and those columns were 
so much meat to the novelist. He was just then busy with the second 
part of his work, in which the conspirators figure prominently. The 
testimony showed Nechayev to be a man of a cold, forceful, daring, 
utterly unscrupulous nature, yet left him something of an enigma. 
He had planned to organize the society in small units, whose activi- 
ties were hedged about with secrecy and whose members owed strict 
obedience to their superiors, and he had indeed made the initial step 
toward achieving his goal. The emblem of the organization was an 
axe, and its aim was a series of terroristic acts culminating in a 
popular rising, which was scheduled for February 19, 1870, the ninth 
anniversary of the emancipation of the serfs. The Tsar himself was 
to be temporarily spared, with a view to executing him publicly at 
a solemn festival of the liberated people. 

The most startling item brought out in the course of the trial was 
a printed document in code, found in the possession of one of the 
conspirators: The Revolutionist's Catechism. It was apparently the 
work of Bakunin. With harsh precision it defines the duties of the 
revolutionist. It opens with the declaration that he is *'a doomed 
man" and proceeds thus: "He has no interests, no affairs, no feel- 
ings, no attachments of his own, no property, not even a name. He 
is wholly absorbed by one exclusive interest, one thought, one 
passion: revolution." He has broken with the codes, the conven- 


tions, the morality of the civilized world. "Whatever promotes the 
the triumph of the revolution is moral, whatever hinders it is 
immoral, is criminal." (Lenin will restate this idea with fresh con- 
viction). Friendship, love, gratitude, honour itself must be sacri- 
ficed to "the cold passion for the revolutionary cause." The 
revolutionist must insinuate himself everywhere, crippling those 
enemies whom he does not destroy, turning everyone and every- 
thing to his purpose. In this war the foulest means are fair, and so 
he will make common cause with the highwayman, "the true and 
only revolutionist in Russia." The objective is "the complete eman- 
cipation and happiness of the people, that is of the unskilled 
workers." Yet the task of ordering the new society the revolution- 
ist leaves to the future: "Our business is passionate, complete, 
ubiquitous, ruthless destruction." 

The reader who turned from his newspaper to the instalments 
of The Possessed as they appeared in Russky vestnik could not help 
recognizing in the Active conspirators a resemblance to the men 
whom the sensational trial brought into the limelight. In drawing 
the young Verkhovensky, the ringleader in the novel, Dostoevsky 
may well have had an eye on The Revolutionist's Catechism. Cer- 
tainly he used Nechayev himself as a model for his character. The 
young man arrives in the provincial town where the action takes 
place and proceeds to form a group of five, this being a unit of a 
vast secret organization which he hopes to set up and which he 
pretends is already in existence. In order to seal with blood the 
pact that binds the five and above all, perhaps, to satisfy a private 
animus, he plans to have them kill a former member of the group 
who had lost his faith in the cause. Verkhovensky throws the tovv'n 
into a turmoil, twists everyone round his finger, from the wooden- 
headed governor on down, sets them all dancing to his fiendish 
fiddling, instigates arson, carries out the murder (the details closely 
approximate those in the Nechayev case), and vanishes, leaving 
death and destruction in his wake. 

Dostoevsky grants the young Verkhovensky, if grudgingly, flashes 
of selfless enthusiasm, but spares no effort to render him odious: he 
is disgustingly vain, greedy, deceitful, capable of every vileness, a 
moral moron, and without originality, without genius to redeem 
his vices. It is hinted that, to crown his infamy, this would-be 


saviour of humanity is at one and the same time preparing the revo- 
lution and informing the Government against his comrades (as a 
matter of fact, at one time Nechayev was suspected, though unjustly, 
of being an agent-provocateur; Dostoevsky was anticipating the 
career of the double-dealers who were to infiltrate the revolution- 
ary movement and of whom the notorious Azef was the most start- 
ling example). As for Verkhovensky's satellites, they are a set of 
"sullen dolts," conceited eccentrics and scoundrels, with only one 
or two naive dreamers in the whole mad, quarrelsome crew. 

To destroy the Church, to undermine the foundations of society, 
to poison the very springs of hfe — these are the aims of Verkho- 
vensky and his comrades. True, Verkhovensky proposes that, when 
the ramshackle structure has crashed to the ground, he and his 
followers will build "a stone edifice." But it is obvious that he cares 
nothing for building, and as for his followers, one of the characters 
justly observes that they would be the first to be unhappy if the 
millennium arrived. Nor is there any agreement as to what form this 
rational, secular, artificial society will take. Will it be, as the Four- 
ierist member of the Five would demand, a phalanstery? Or per- 
haps a world in which a fraction of mankind exerts a benevolent 
despotism over all the rest who, by a system of spying, slander, and 
murder, are eventually transformed into a slavish herd living in 
animal innocence and contentment — the earthly paradise mapped 
out by the mournful Shigalyov? In the interest of absolute equality 
— which is incompatible with his scheme — he would cut out Cicero's 
tongue, put out Copernicus' eyes and stone Shakespeare. He admits 
with consternation that although the starting point of his plan is un- 
limited freedom, it ends in unlimited despotism. Yet his solution 
of the social problem is, he believes, the only possible one. The 
nihilists may profess devotion to freedom, but lacking religious 
regard for the individual and for the spiritual bread he lives by, they 
are bound to enslave him in the end. To this thesis I>ostoevsky will 
return again and again. 

It may be that he modelled Shigalyov on Pyotr Tkachov, a former 
contributor to Vremya and a defendant in the Nechayev trial. One 
of the earliest Russian followers of Karl Marx, he held ideas to 
which Marx would not have subscribed. The author of The 
Possessed may have looked into the book that the young man pub- 


lished in 1869. Therein Tkachov argued that for social harmony 
the abolition of classes was not enough — it was necessary to eradi- 
cate whatever made for rivalry between individuals and so whatever 
enabled a man to stand out among his fellows. 

By the time the novel was pubUshed in book form, he believed 
that he had written "almost a historical study," as he said in a 
letter to the future emperor Alexander III. who had expressed the 
desire to know what the author thought of his own work. It was 
designed, the novelist wrote, to show how such a monstrous phe- 
nomenon as the Nechayev movement had arisen through the divorce 
of the intellectuals from the masses. The hberals of the forties, too 
deeply concerned for humanity to care either for their country or 
their God, had begotten the revolutionists of the sixties. Why, the 
spiritual father of Nechayev was none other than Belinsky! 

Strange how, with the passage of years, that figure took on sin- 
ister proportions! Yet it was not Belinsky, but his disciple, Tur- 
genev, whom Dostoevsky made the butt of his scorn. His hatred 
for this fellow writer had grown steadily since he left the scene 
of their quarrel. By now the man had become for him the embodi- 
ment of that indifference to the Russian God and the Russian folk 
that he so abominated. No wonder that in a novel which lumped 
the liberals with the extremists in a wholesale excommunication, 
he should hit out at one whom he considered both a personal and 
a public enemy. Indeed, the contemporary reader had no difficulty 
in recognizing the features of Turgenev, as man and writer, crudely 
and maliciously caricatured in those of Karmazinov, the celebrity 
who is visiting the town in which the action of the novel takes 
place. Few pages in this angry book are so spattered with spittle 
and gall as are those on which Karmazinov appears. 

It is significant that a tender-minded liberal of the type that 
flourished when Dostoevsky and Turgenev were young is the father 
of the ruthless archconspirator in the novel, and the tutor of another 
youth marked for perdition. The novelist deals almost as mercilessly 
with Verkhovensky senior as with his fiendish offspring. The parent 
is a babe at fifty, a vain, self-indulgent babbler, spending his useless 
days as the pensioner of a rich woman who is bound to him by an 
affection strangely compounded of contempt, hatred, and jealousy. 
And yet there is a touch of the quixotic about the man, a faint con- 


sciousness of his own degradation, a spark of aspiration not wholly 
smothered in ashes. And so Dostoevsky concludes by taking the 
sentimental old sinner to his heart, grants him a Christian end, and, 
what is more, puts into his mouth the more obvious message of the 

Toward the close of the novel, offended by his patroness, the old 
Verkhovensky takes to the road, alone and on foot, with no idea 
whither he is bound, but with some crazy notion of upholding the 
ideal of freedom. The wanderer falls mortally ill and on his death- 
bed a chance companion reads him passages from the Gospels, 
including the one on the devils who entered into the swine — the 
epigraph of the novel. It flashes upon the dying man that this is 
a parable of his country. Russia had been sick for generations, she 
had been possessed of unclean spirits, but now these devils have 
entered into the swine, that is, himself and his son and the rest of 
that unhappy lot. "And we shall cast ourselves down," he cries, 
"demented and raving, from the rocks into the sea, and we shall 
all be drowned — and a good thing, too, for that is all we are fit 
for. But the sick man will be healed and 'will sit at the feet of Jesus,' 
and all will look upon him with astonishment. ..." 

The novelist may have flattered himself that he had produced 
"a historical study," and indeed some of his material was drawn 
from life, but the conspirators he painted were really devils in 
whom he believed without having seen, and whom he was out to 
exorcize. The nihilists of the early sixties had recognized them- 
selves in Turgenev's Bazarov. The liberals of the seventies joined 
with the extremists in dismissing Dostoevsky's picture of the revo- 
lutionists as malicious misrepresentation, portraits of psychopaths, 
signifying nothing. It was infamous to identify the cause of Russian 
freedom with Nechayev, a fanatic whom even like-minded men in- 
dignantly repudiated for his unscrupulousness! Anyone not com- 
pletely swayed by prejudice could see that those who took up arms 
against the older order were inspired by the highest motives. What 
a hotchpotch of venom, bigotry, anachronism the book was! As 
though in the days when the action takes place Russian radicals 
were stifl reading Fourier or drawing blueprints for the millennium. 
They were either engaged in the peaceful propaganda of socialist 
ideas or, in yet smaller numbers, they were plotting mass insurrec- 


tion. The fewest were advocating the seizure of power by a handful 
of conspirators. The man had obviously jumbled wry memories of 
the rebel circles of his youth with furiously distorted views of their 
more recent avatars. It was not only Dostoevsky's contemporaries 
who thus castigated The Possessed. It has remained on the blacklist 
of the radicals. In 1913, Gorky was protesting against the staging 
of a dramatized version of the novel by the Moscow Art Theatre, 
and the following year the Austrian Social-Democratic Party 
succeeded in suppressing its performance in Vienna. In our own day 
the novel has, of course, been condemned by Soviet opinion. 

Dostoevsky could neither treat the revolution with Turgenev's 
genial, half-deprecatory interest, nor, like Tolstoy, leave it alone. 
He kept returning to the subject, with his usual vehemence, and 
in the compulsive fashion of a man who bites on a sore tooth. It is 
plain that the confused, blackened, and distorted picture of the 
revolutionary movement that he drew in The Possessed was the 
work of a man blinded by fear and fury. He failed utterly to do 
justice to the idealism that burned with so clear a flame in these 
early revolutionists, and with a fanaticism that savours of the 
renegade, he misrepresented both their programme and their 

Yet read in the light of Russia's recent history some pages of 
The Possessed seem to foreshadow the character and course of the 
revolution that was to take place half a century later. For one thing, 
they suggest that the upheaval is likely to go beyond political and 
economic changes. "A new religion is coming instead of the old 
one," young Verkhovensky lets fall in discussing the prospects of 
the movement. Point is given to the remark by the fact that what 
is called "communism" to-day is a quasi-religion sharing the dog- 
matism, the dynamism, the intransigence of some of the older 
faiths. That the revolution would find a weapon against the Church 
in militant atheism is another of Dostoevsky's intuitions borne out 
by the event. He had Myshkin, in The Idiot, observe that Russians 
easily succumb to the temptation of atheism and that they hold to 
it with the conviction of the believer. In The Possessed a convert 
to the revolutionary cause chops up his icon with an axe and burns 
candles before the works of Vogt, Moleschott and Biichner, the 
exponents of the crude materialism of the day. 


1 1 1 

First conceived as a pamphlet against the radicals. The Possessed 
contains elements that are not an inevitable part of such a con- 
ception. The book has two main nodes of interest, at least two 
distinct, if related, plots. One is built around the conspiracy cap- 
tained by the younger Verkhovensky, the other is centred about 
the career of Stavrogin, the quondam pupil of the elder Verkhov- 
ensky and the only son of the great lady who is his patroness. In- 
deed, it is the brilliant and enigmatic figure of Stavrogin that domin- 
ates the novel, although his connection with the theme of revolution, 
which is the prime mover of the book, is indirect. 

While the novel was still in embryo Dostoevsky imagined him 
as a man with immense spiritual energy which, for lack of an 
objective, made his whole life one of "storm and disorder." Should 
he be drawn as a complete sensualist, playing with life and ending 
as a suicide? Or perhaps at the last he would find Christ, the 
Russian Christ, the Saviour of the Orthodox folk, possibly through 
contact with some pious recluse, and become "a new man." Obvi- 
ously, these notions derived from the other projects that were at 
the same time occupying Dostoevsky: the novel on atheism and 
The Life of a Great Sinner. The Stavrogin of The Possessed is 
pictured as an irretrievably lost soul. At the height of his powers 
he is stricken with an impotence of the spirit, a lack of essential 
heat. A former disciple says of him: "If Stavrogin has faith, he 
does not believe that he has faith. If he hasn't, he doesn't believe 
that he hasn't." In his last estimate of himself he says that he can 
neither affirm nor deny, that he derives pleasure equally from good 
and evil, but that his pleasure is as feeble as his desires are 

Stavrogin, as he lives in the pages of the novel, does not sufficiently 
resemble this Laodicean. For all the novelist's insistence, one can- 
not quite credit Stavrogin's weakness or the completeness of his 
depravity. Dostoevsky's condemnation of his hero is akin to Mil- 
ton's judgment on Lucifer, whom he could not help making 
attractive. He loves his unhappy villain: hadn't he told Katkov 
that he had taken him from his heart? It is not impossible that the 


image of Speshnev, that romantic companion of his youth, was 
present in his mind when he was drawing Stavrogin. There is a 
mighty force in this man, the secret of the fascination he exercises 
over all who encounter him, including Verkhovensky, who, believ- 
ing in his extraordinary aptitude for crime, plans to make him the 
leader of the revolution. In fact, there is something idolatrous in the 
young nihilist's attitude toward Stavrogin — it is as though Dostoev- 
sky could scarcely imagine a man, however irreligious, who did 
not eventually bow down to someone or something. But Stavrogin's 
force, being without direction, wastes itself in perversities, intellec- 
tual vagaries, and monstrous experiments. He toys with revolution, 
as he flings himself into debauchery, wallows in mud, essays crime, 
simply to escape from the aimlessness of his life. He marries a 
servant-girl, crippled and an idiot, who is secretly in love with him, 
partly to satisfy a perverse desire for self-injury, and also because 
it titillates him to outrage people's sense of the fitness of things. 
Stavrogin's tragedy was to his creator but another symptom of the 
disease with which a rootless, and hence godless, generation was 
afflicted. The descendant of a long line of gentlemen, he had lost 
the distinction between good and evil because, the novelist would 
have us believe, he was out of touch with the people. 

Among the ideas he conjures with are the most precious articles 
in Dostoevsky's credo: the Russians are the one "God-bearing'* 
people, possessing "the keys of life" and destined to "save the 
world in the name of a new God"; the Catholic Church has failed 
to preserve the purity of the Christian ideal, and in its greed for 
temporal power is indeed serving Antichrist, thus working the ruin 
of Western civilization; "socialism is from its very nature bound 
to be atheism, seeing that ... it intends to establish itself exclusively 
on the elements of science and reason"; nations do not live by 
reason, which has no power to distinguish good from evil, but by 
faith, each in its own holy mission. The astonishing thing is that 
Dostoevsky offers these beliefs as the dubious treasure found by 
the spiritually bankrupt Stavrogin at the end of one of his blind 
alleys, just as in The Idiot he makes that devious rascal, Lebedev, 
the mouthpiece for some of his most cherished sentiments. Further- 
more, it is in the limited, fanatical mind of Stavrogin's disciple, 
Shatov, that the idea of Russian Messianism finds permanent lodg- 


ment. It was a passing fancy with its brilliant originator; it is the 
rock of faith for his dull follower. This uncouth plebeian is pos- 
sessed of complete integrity, ferocious earnestness, and a strong will- 
to-believe, but he is a man who, instead of mastering his convic- 
tions, is overpowered by them. What is more amazing than all this 
is to hear the atheist, Stavrogin, vainly striving with his unbelief, 
credited with the very words in which Dostoevsky, some sixteen 
years earlier, tried to express the perfection of his own faith to the 
devout woman who had befriended him as a convict: "If anyone 
could prove that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really 
did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ, and not with 
the truth." 

It was as if Dostoevsky had a need for deliberately casting a 
shadow of doubt upon his avowed convictions. Thus he impeached 
his own fanaticism. His private letters and his publicist essays show 
him cherishing a faith that his imaginative writings indirectly call 
in question. Was he so firm a believer that he could allow himself 
the luxury of blasphemy? Or was the placing of his credo in this 
ambiguous light a way of confessing his private doubts without 
offence to his conscience? In the course of one of those dialogues 
that are the peaks of Dostoevsky's art Stavrogin puts to Shatov 
the direct question: "Do you believe in God?'* and receives the 
frantic answer: "I believe in Russia. ... I believe in her Ortho- 
doxy. ... I believe in the body of Christ. ... I believe that the 
new advent will take place in Russia. ... I believe ..." When 
Stavrogin insists: "And in God? In God?" Shatov can only 
stammer: "I ... I will believe in God." One is inclined to read this 
as an indirect acknowledgment of the infirmity of his own faith 
on the part of Shatov's creator. 

At the same time that he was indoctrinating Shatov with religious 
nationalism, Stavrogin planted in the receptive mind of Kirillov the 
seeds of a God-defying arrogance. By his own admission, he was 
not deceiving either disciple: in persuading them he was simply 
trying to find himself — a statement that appears to apply with equal 
force to the man who projected himself in these several characters. 
While Shatov piously accepts life, Kirillov is a Promethean rebel, 
refusing it on the terms on which it is offered. A man "swallowed 
by an idea," he is a fanatic and a visionary. He knows ecstatic 


moments of "eternal harmony," such as Myshkin knew just before 
an epileptic attack. This experience apparently leads him to the 
conviction that life need not be "the vaudeville of devils" that it is. 
that supreme happiness is possible on earth. But the prerequisite 
is to overcome the fear of death. Thereby the idea of God will be 
destroyed, for man has invented deity to protect himself from the 
horror of extinction. Kirillov, with naive arrogance, believes that 
he is the first human being to refuse to devise God. Yet this atheist 
is a man of a profoundly religious temper. "God has tormented 
me," he says, "all my life." Existence without God is unthinkable 
and unbearable for him. The void must be filled: since God does 
not exist, he argues, I am God (the same thought had been attribu- 
ted to the Great Sinner). If heaven is empty, it behoves man to use 
his "terrible freedom" and assert that attribute of his own godhead, 
his self-will. And what clearer proof can he give of it than by freely 
surrendering his life? Accordingly Kirillov resolves to kill himself. 
By another mammoth non-sequitur, he decides that through this 
act of self-crucifixion all humanity will be redeemed: man on earth 
will enter into glory and undergo a physical transformation. For 
man in his present state — here as elsewhere Dostoevsky was antici- 
pating Nietzsche — is something to be surpassed. 

Kirillov carries out his intention, but his suicide, far from being 
the apocalyptic event he had expected, is a gesture as futile as it is 
ghastly. His death does not even profit Verkhovensky, who made 
him take upon himself the blame for Shatov's murder. Kirillov's 
fate is, of course, intended as an object lesson in the deadly effect 
of atheism. The lesson is apt to be lost on the reader, in spite of 
the power with which Kirillov is presented, because of the quality 
of the reasoning that leads him to suicide. What this figure, like that 
of Shatov, does attest to is the tormenting insistence of the novel- 
ist's doubts and, no less, the strength of his religious need. "The 
chief question ... by which consciously or unconsciously, I have 
been tormented all my life," he wrote to Maikov in 1870, "is that 
of the existence of God." 

I V 

One of the crucial points in the novel is a conversation in which 
Shatov, seeing Stavrogin's feet of clay, yet unable to cast down 


this idol, rises against him in a passion of love and hate, and calls 
him to account. At the close of this scene the rebellious disciple 
urges his false teacher, just as Sonia urged Raskolnikov, to kiss the 
earth that he has defiled, water it with his tears, and ask forgiveness. 
A clarifying commentary on this admonition may be gathered from 
the obscure words of that pitiful sibyl, Stavrogin's wife, to the effect 
that Mother Earth is really the same as the Mother of God, and 
that from the tears with which men water the earth springs joy. 
Shatov also bids Stavrogin give up his wealth and try to find God 
by toiling in the sweat of his face like a peasant (Tolstoy will exalt 
this notion into a system). He ends by telling Stavrogin to go and 
see Tikhon, a retired archpriest who is living in a local monastery. 
In the novel as it stands, nothing further is heard of the matter. 
But Dostoevsky did actually write the scene in which Stavrogin 
visits the saintly hermit — it will be recalled that the early plans for 
the novel provided for such an episode. 

What brings the young man to Tikhon's cell is the need to con- 
fess an unspeakable crime, the memory of which is a continual 
torture to him. Dostoevsky's writings hold nothing more subtle and 
powerful than the account of the crime as it is unfolded in Stavro- 
gin's confession, which he handed to Tikhon in the form of a printed 
statement. He had begun by injuring a little girl somewhat in the 
fashion in which Rousseau had wronged the servant girl Marion: 
he had suffered the twelve-year-old Matryosha to be flogged in his 
presence for the suspected theft of his knife, knowing that she was 
innocent. And then, as he savoured the pleasure of his own mean- 
ness, he was stung by a vile thought. He did not obey the impulse 
immediately. Indeed, for two days he did not come near the house 
where Matryosha lived, and where he kept a room for assignation 
purposes. By way of diversion, he committed a theft. He went back 
to the house, went away again, and finally returned, bent on carry- 
ing out his intention. All the while he was convinced that he could 
abandon it, were he so minded. Stavrogin insists on this point, in 
order to remove any suspicion that he was irresponsible. Any 
shameful act he might commit, any humiliating situation in which 
he might find himself, was a source of keen pleasure to him, yet he 
could control his emotions, no matter how violent. Though the 


child's sensuality, which he had himself aroused, moved him 
momentarily to revulsion and pity, he accomplished his purpose, 
after which he went off to spend the night elsewhere. 

The following day he was drawn to the scene of his crime, torn 
between hatred of his victim and fear of discovery. But these 
emotions did not long distress him. The child, blaming herself, kept 
the secret. He decided to leave the city and, coming to the lodging 
to settle accounts, learned that Matryosha had been ill and delirious. 
Believing that he would find her alone in the evening, he returned 
then without knowing why, but with a vague feeling that his pre- 
sence would bring matters to a head. In an obscure way he became 
the author of another crime: his apparently innocent visit was the 
goad that drove the little girl to hang herself, and he did not leave 
the place until he had satisfied himself that she had done so. 

For a while, the confession goes on, he remembered the affair 
with irritation, and it was shortly afterwards, in a fit of desperate 
boredom, that he married the crippled idiot. His subsequent trip 
home and extended travels abroad wiped the evil memory out of 
his mind, until one day, waking from an afternoon nap in which 
he had had an exalting dream of a Golden Age, a trick of associa- 
tion recalled the whole hideous episode to him, and thereafter he 
knew no peace. Although feeling able to free himself from the 
obsession, he believed that he would cling to it until madness over- 
took him. In an effort to save himself from his torments, he planned 
to commit another crime, bigamy, but instead he had his confession 
printed with the idea of making it public at the proper moment. 

The scene between Stavrogin and Tikhon, which was to form 
the ninth chapter of Part Two or the first of Part Three, does not 
figure in the novel, and indeed was not published in full until 1922. 
The magazine rejected it as too unsavoury for its pages. Early in 
1872, while Dostoevsky's affairs were in disorder and he was spend- 
ing his time driving from one creditor to another, he kept devising 
substitute versions of the chapter which would not offend "the 
chastity of the editorial ofl^ce," as he put it to his niece Sonia. But 
none of them proved acceptable, and in the end the chapter was not 
published, nor did it appear in the separate edition of the novel. 
Dostoevsky must have had reasons other than the publisher's or the 


public's squeamishness for omitting it from the final version of his 
work. As has been seen, while the image of Stavrogin was still in- 
choate, the novelist had considered the possibiHty of redeeming him 
in the end. As the work progressed and Stavrogin claimed a more 
important place, he abandoned this idea. Possibly he felt that Stav- 
rogin confessing his sin, even if he did so rather in a spirit of chal- 
lenge than of Christian humility, was out of key with the picture 
of a soul utterly lost. In any event, it is regrettable that he discar- 
ded the chapter, since aside from its intrinsic value, it clarifies 
certain situations in the novel, which, as it stands, are rather 

Stavrogin's talk with Tikhon concludes on the archpriest's horri- 
fied prediction that the young man is on the brink of another 
atrocity, which he will commit in order to escape publicly acknow- 
ledging the one he has just confessed. And, indeed, Stavrogin does 
end his career with a double crime: for one thing, he renders him- 
self morally guilty of the murder of his lawful wife and of her 
brother by taking no steps to prevent it, though aware that it is 
imminent. His failure to interfere is dictated by his vague thought 
of marrying a girl who is deeply in love with him, although her love, 
as is often the case with Dostoevsky's characters, sometimes assumes 
the guise of hatred. Furthermore, he talces this pure passionate 
creature when, in an impulsive moment, she offers herself to him. 
He hopes somehow that her love will redeem him, but knows at 
heart that he is incapable of loving her. The mob, smelling out his 
part in the murder, lynches her as ''Stavrogin's woman," so that 
in a sense his hands are stained with her blood as well. 

After the tragedy, Stavrogin's first thought is to expatriate him- 
self and settle in Switzerland with a woman who loves liim enough 
to be content with the role of a nurse to him. Suicide, he tells him- 
self, would be the final lie in a life of deception, for it would argue 
a despair he cannot feel. He overcomes this scruple, however, and 
ends by hanging himself. He has placed himself beyond the pale of 
humanity by his inability to distinguish between good and evil, 
and this last act is merely a dramatization of that moral law. 
What with the edifying end of the elder Verkhovensky, the trans- 
cendental self-destruction of Kirillov, the assassination of Shatov, 
the death of his wife and her infant, the lynching of the girl, the 


killing of the thug who had murdered Stavrogin's wife and brother- 
in-law, the conclusion of this turbulent novel matches any Eliza- 
bethan drama for bloodiness. Dostoevsky's text in The Possessed 
might well have been that on the wages of sin: the sin of divorce 
from the people and the consequent loss of God. 

In the spring of 1908 the Russian papers carried accounts of the 
sensational trial of a certain Duloup, an instructor of French 
in several of the more select Petersburg schools, who was charged 
with raping a ten-year-old girl. In connection with the case the 
name of the author of The Possessed was mentioned, with 
apologies, and some old gossip about him found its way into 
print. According to one story thus published, the novelist, follow- 
ing with morbid fascination the trial of a man accused of the 
same offence, came to identify himself with the criminal. "There 
were moments," he is reported to have said, "when it seemed 
to me that the accused got into the dock by mistake, and that 
it was not he but I who had outraged the little girl, although 
I had never before laid my eyes on the unhappy child." As the 
proceedings drew to an end, he found himself under compulsion 
to victimize the little girl in his turn, and indeed, when the 
trial was over he carried out his purpose. Overcome with remorse, 
he opened his heart to an old friend, who advised him to do pen- 
ance by confessing the crime to the man whom he hated most, and 
so Dostoevsky made a clean breast of it to Turgenev. The tale is 
supposed to have been circulated by Dostoevsky's schoolmate, that 
scandalmonger, Grigorovich. 

Another story, printed at the same time, had it that at a large 
gathering, the discussion turning on shameful acts committed by 
decent people, Dostoevsky told about a man who got into talk with 
a governess on the street and then seduced both her and her young 
charge. "That scoundrel," he is said to have blurted out, "was I." 
He is reported to have made the same confession to a lady of his 
acquaintance. The more recently published memoirs of a minor 
writer, a contemporary of the novelist, offers a variant combining 
the elements of the two previous versions. Dostoevsky comes to 


Turgenev and tells him a detailed story about the governess and her 
charge, but ends by asserting that he invented the whole thing for 
his host's entertainment. Dostoevsky's reputed pedophilia offence 
is said to have been frequently mentioned in literary circles 
during the eighties. It was alleged to have occurred before his 

These rumours would not merit serious attention, were it not 
that two years after the novelist's death the same damaging allega- 
tion was made by none other than Strakhov, Dostoevsky's intimate, 
the companion of his travels, the chief contributor to his reviews, 
the witness to his second wedding, the friend of the household, the 
man to whom Dostoevsky's widow entrusted the labour of pre- 
paring, in collaboration with Orest Miller, the official Lije and 
Letters of her husband. Upon the publication of the book Strakhov 
sent a copy of it to an acquaintance with a note in which he re- 
marked that the task, which had been more or less forced upon him, 
had been a good deal of a burden. He also sent a copy to his friend 
Leo Tolstoy, and followed it up with a letter, dated November 28, 
1883. Herein he confessed that while working on the book he had 
had to combat a feeling of disgust for his subject, and closed with 
a resigned admission that the performance was simply another 
piece of eulogistic cant. After portraying his late friend as a selfish, 
dissolute, vicious creature, he wrote: "He was drawn to abomina- 
tions, and he boasted of them. Viskovatov began telling me how 
he boasted that in a bathhouse he ... a little girl brought to him 
by her governess." 

This astounding document was not published until 1913, when 
both correspondents were in their graves, and was first brought to 
the attention of Dostoevsky's widow a year later. The devotion 
she had borne her husband when he was alive had long since turned 
into idolatrous worship of the memory of the departed. She had 
once described him to Tolstoy as "the kindest, the tenderest, the 
most intelligent and generous man" she had ever known. Naturally 
Strakhov's portrait appeared to her a monstrous calumny, the 
work of malice and envy, perhaps the belated revenge for a slight 
put upon him by the dead. She says as much in her posthumously 
published reminiscences, where she deals with Strakhov's letter, 
while ignoring the other versions of the rumour. Of course 


she indignantly denies his charge of perversion. To satisfy such a 
craving, she argues, one must be a rich man, and that her Fyodor 
had never been. And how absurd to drag in Professor Viskovatov, 
a casual acquaintance who had never even been in the house! The 
story goes back to a variant of "Stavrogin's Confession," she sug- 
gests, pointing out that when Katkov rejected the chapter in its 
original form, Dostoevsky rewrote it, introducing a governess and 
a bathhouse, and then read it to some friends, Strakhov among 
them. They advised him against this version too, on the grounds 
that to implicate a governess in so hideous an affair would be to 
lay himself open to the charge of attacking the movement for the 
emancipation of women. And it was thanks to this piece of fiction, 
she concludes, that Strakhov ascribed Stavrogin's crime to Dosto- 

The widow is candid enough in her memoirs, but inclined to 
emphasize the brighter parts of the picture. Thus, she passes over 
in silence the murder of her father-in-law, of which she could 
scarcely have been ignorant. In any event, no trace of the variant 
of "Stavrogin's Confession" that she mentions has been discovered 
so far. As for the cost of gratifying the perverse desire, it could 
not have been great: a contemporary points out that the shameful 
traffic went on openly in the Petersburg "Passage," the arcade 
where, any night, Dostoevsky might have seen little girls as wretched 
as those who had wrung his heart in the Haymarket on his London 
visit. Further, even if Strakhov was, as Dostoevsky felt in his latter 
years, a fair-weather friend, capable of treachery, it is difficult to 
believe that he wilfully twisted the facts with a view to defaming the 
dead man in the eyes of posterity. There are no plausible motives 
for his bringing falsely so grave a charge against his late com- 
panion, in a letter addressed to the master whom he deeply 

At the same time Strakhov's letter, though apparently sincere, 
is of doubtful value as evidence. The allegation it contains is plainly 
a piece of hearsay, omitting all reference to place and time, and 
not even completed: "Viskovatov began telling me. ..." Viskov- 
atov was a professor at the University of Dorpat, who seldom came 
to Petersburg and whom Dostoevsky seems to have disliked. It is 
not even certain that he had the story at first-liand. But assuming 


that Dostoevsky did thus unbosom himself to the man, it is still 
open to question whether he was confessing an act he had com- 
mitted or indulging his morbid fantasy. 

Strakhov's letter in itself is a psychological puzzle. Three days 
after Dostoevsky 's funeral he had been writing to Tolstoy in quite 
a different tone: 'Tn his [Dostoevsky 's] presence I longed to be 
both wise and good, and the deep respect we felt for one another, 
in spite of foolish misunderstandings, was, as I see, extremely dear 
to me." Were these sentiments merely in the nature of a conven- 
tional wreath laid on the grave, and withering as soon? Certainly 
it is hard to reconcile them with the ugly effigy of the man he pre- 
sented two years later. Perhaps this was as much the product of 
blind emotion as the widow's glorification of her late espoused 
saint. In spite, then, of the weight Strakhov's name lends to the 
charge, it must be considered not proved. 

It may well be that, as the widow suggested, the ugly rumour 
arose simply in connection with the suppressed chapters of The 
Possessed, either as they now stand or in some other form that has 
not come down to us, and has no foundation in fact. But here, too, 
proof is lacking. "The truth must be sought somewhere between," 
as the chronicler in the novel observes in commenting upon the 
veracity of Stavrogin's confession. Surely there is some significance 
in the fact that Dostoevsky here presents so nakedly intimate a 
picture of this perversion, and further, that the same motif crops up 
in his writings with a curious persistence. 

The theme is first adumbrated in a story written when he was 
only twenty-seven, "A Christmas Tree and a Wedding," where a 
middle-aged man casts guilty glances at a little girl still playing 
with dolls. There is an ever so faint hint of it in the treatment of an 
adolescent boy's first awakening in "The Little Hero," the story 
he wrote in prison. When he was courting Anna Korvin-Krukovs- 
kaya in the winter of 1865 he entertained the ladies of the family 
one day by relating a scene from a tale he had sketched out in his 
youth. He imagined, he said, a comfortably situated middle-aged 
man waking up one morning and plunging into pleasant reveries; 
suddenly in the midst of this agreeable occupation the man becomes 
vaguely troubled; his apparently baseless uneasiness grows; some- 
thing hovers tantalizingly on the edge of his consciousness and 


vanishes before he can seize it; abruptly the recollection flashes 
upon him: years earlier, after a night of debauch, spurred on by 
drunken companions, he had violated a child. In The Insulted and 
Injured, little Nellie is in the clutches of a procuress and barely 
escapes being victimized by a middle-aged pervert. The depraved 
Svidrigailov in Crime and Punishment is said to have outraged a 
girl of fourteen who ended by killing herself. (In this respect, as in 
others, Svidrigailov is the sketch, where Stavrogin is the finished 
portrait). The night before he shoots himself, in a state between 
sleeping and waking, he sees the familiar face of a fourteen-year-old 
girl who lies in her coffin:,". . . she had destroyed herself, crushed 
by an insult that had appalled and amazed that childish soul, had 
smirched that angel purity with unmerited disgrace. ..." The mean- 
ing of this fantasy is underscored by his subsequent nightmare. 
Before he decides to commit suicide he engages himself to a girl 
under sixteen. In The Eternal Husband the middle-aged cuckold 
also comtemplates marriage to a schoolgirl, and, like Svidrigailov 
is represented as a man whose sensuality is aroused by innocence 
and immaturity. Again, in A Raw Youth, the same inclination is 
vaguely ascribed to Versilov. According to a preliminary note for 
the novel, he seduces his thirteen-year-old step-daughter, who 
eventually hangs herself. To judge by the notes for The Brothers 
Karamazov, Dostoevsky had at one time intended to make Dmitry 
Karamazov guilty of Stavrogin's crime. 

Why did Dostoevsky choose this particular offence as a symbol 
of evil? Why was he haunted by it? The morbid sexual act may have 
been a phantasy of Dostoevsky's, with the incidental effect of in- 
tensifying his sense of guilt. In The Brothers Karamazov the prose- 
cutor observes that epileptics are "tormented by pangs of conscience, 
often without cause; they exaggerate and often invent all sorts of 
faults and crimes." Holding that "epilepsy is apt to be associated 
with moral perversity," Havelock Ellis writes that Dostoevsky had 
"manifold perverse impulses." It is not necessary to conclude, 
however, he adds, that the novelist "carried morbid impulse to 
completed action." Wilhelm Stekel states that the epileptic fit is a 
substitute for a crime, "or, it may be, for a sexual act that is a 
crime," and suggests that in Dostoevsky's case the crime may have 
been child rape. The assumption that he was obsessed by a pedo- 


philic craving, even though he did not satisfy it, would explain his 
preoccupation with the theme. He harped upon it for the same 
reason that the victim of a phobia constantly seeks to project the 
eventuality he fears; he kept returning to it, one surmises, for the 
sake of the vicarious experience and in obedience to the urge to 


So HE had freed himself from the burden of another novel. There 
it was — a great, sprawling, awkward thing. It had less structural 
unity than its predecessors. When would he learn to master his 
material? When would he restrain himself from crowding the stuff 
of several novels into one, "without measure and harmony?" Per- 
haps never. Form, finish, craftsmanship were important, yes, but 
they were beyond him. He must always overreach himself, must 
always be stammering and stuttering with the urgency of what he 
had to say. At any rate, there was heat in The Possessed, and some 
plain speaking. He had poured out his wrath upon the unbelievers 
and the rebels and taken the opportunity to settle a personal score. 
He had fought furiously in defence of God and country. He knew 
that not all his blows had struck home, but he probably did not 
realize that he had inadvertently shown the chinks in the armour 
of his own faith. 

And now he must be at it again. The end of one book was but 
the beginning of another. His novels had something unfinished, 
something tentative about them. Repeatedly he was forced to re- 
turn to the problems that he raised in them. The struggle to speak 
out all that was in him would never end. Long before he had writ- 
ten finis to The Possessed new projects began to ferment in his 
mind. In January, 1872, when only the first two parts of that work 
were completed, he had paid a visit to Katkov in Moscow and out- 
lined for him the subject of his next novel. About the same time 
he had confided to a friend that he was reading up in preparation 
for a journey to the East: Constantinople, Greece, and the Holy 
Land. While he was still in Dresden he had been dreaming of going 
there and bringing back a book which would cover the expenses 
of the trip. He had told Anna prior to their engagement that he had 
before him three choices: to go to Jerusalem and perhaps settle 



there, to live a gambler's life in Europe, to get married. Well, he 
had married; he had followed his gambling urge; and the East still 
beckoned him. There could be no thought of settling there now; he 
had a wife and two children on his hands. He would stay there less 
than a year and come back with a book. The journey could only 
have meant a pilgrimage to the sources of the Orthodox faith. The 
book could only have been a story of Christ. Some years later he 
was to list such a work among the things he promised himself to 
write before he died. He never made the pilgrimage. He never wrote 
the book. Nor, when The Possessed was finished, did he turn at once 
to another novel. He needed a rest from the strain of fiction-writing. 
In the meanwhile, how would they all live? 

He had little to hope for from the litigation over Aunt Kuman- 
ina's estate in which he was now engaged. It will be remembered 
that during his sojourn in Dresden, Dostoevsky, misled by false news 
of the old lady's death and an equally false report as to the provi- 
sions of her will, had made inquiries preliminary to claiming a 
share for himself and for Mikhail's family. His brother Audrey, one 
of the executors, informing him reproachfully of the true state of 
affairs, he had replied in a tone of injured innocence that he had 
never had any expectation of benefiting by the will, considering that 
he had received all that was due to him. He had repeated this to his 
niece Sonia, adding that in all conscience he believed that he owed 
Aunt's estate interest on the ten thousand roubles he had had from 
her. But Aunt Kumanina having actually departed this life and her 
will coming up for probate, he felt differently about the matter. In 
addition to the Dostoevskys, the will mentioned descendants of a 
half sister of the deceased. If the Dostoevskys could successfully 
contest the will as having been drawn up when the testator was 
not of sound mind, the entire estate would go to them. His former 
protestations notwithstanding, Dostoevsky, together with his brothers 
and sisters, instituted proceedings to annul the will. They dealt with 
two lawyers, both of whom he thought incompetent and one of 
whom he suspected of being in collusion with the enemy, the other 
branch of the family. There was thus precipitated a bitter feud, 
in which he found himself ranged against not only his distant rela- 
tives, but his own brothers and sisters, who denounced him as a 
robber, because, if they won the suit, he would be legally entitled to 


a share in the estate from which the will excluded him. This^ 
although he assured the family that he was fighting for their interests 
and would not claim anything beyond the expenses incurred by him 
in connection with the case. It was settled in favour of the Dosto- 
evskys, but then the situation was further complicated by the fact 
that the youngest sister, dissatisfied with the arrangements, brought 
suit against the rest of the family. In February, 1874, Dostoevsky 
received a little over four hundred roubles, which barely covered 
his share of the costs. The court also granted him a portion of the 
tract of land which was all that was left of Aunt Kumanina's sub- 
stantial estate, and, contrary to his promise, he eventually took 
possession of it. 

Even while this unfortunate lawsuit was in progress, he was en- 
gaged with other affairs of a practical nature. He had been nurs- 
ing the idea of going into the publishing business since his early 
youth. Now his ambitions had narrowed down to bringing out his 
own works. He had not been able to find a publisher either for 
The Idiot or The Possessed after they had been serialized. With 
the book trade what it was in Russia, the only way to make his 
novels pay as they should was to issue them at his own expense. 
In spite of the grave warnings of friends, Anna enthusiastically 
embraced the idea, entered into the scheme with her characteristic 
energy and good sense, and rapidly became the sole factotum in the 
enterprise. It was decided to issue The Possessed first. Its publica- 
tion was announced in one of the newspapers on January 22, 1873. 
That morning Dostoevsky rose late, sulky as usual, but after two 
cups of piping hot coffee he was able to ask Anna cheerfully how the 
book business was going. When she replied that it was going well, 
he remarked that she must have sold one copy, whereupon she 
produced three hundred roubles and a slip of paper showing that 
she had disposed of one hundred and fifteen copies, for cash, since 
nine o'clock that morning. The venture was a huge success. Within 
a twelvemonth they sold three thousand copies. For the next thirty- 
eight years Anna was to keep up the business of publishing her hus- 
band's works. 

He had further money-making schemes in his head. While still 
abroad, he had played with the idea of compiling, on his return 
home, a reference work of some sort, perhaps in the form of a 



year book — Liza, in The Possessed, cherishes a similar notion. He 
had had, too, a plan for starting a newspaper. Now more than 
ever he needed to make some direct response to the questions 
that were flung at him by life in Russia. Yet these notions came 
to nothing for want of funds with which to start the ventures. He 
was therefore glad to accept the editorship of a weekly owned by 
his new acquaintance. Prince Meshchersky, at a salary of three 
thousand a year, with additional payments for whatever contribu- 
tions he might make. 

Grazhdanin (The Citizen), as the paper was inappropriately called, 
had been founded the previous year by that young aristocrat as 
an organ of reactionary opinion. In one of its first issues it called 
for an end to the liberal reforms with which the reign had opened. 
The prince had the highest connections — he was on friendly terms 
with the heir apparent — and an inordinate ambition for journalistic 
laurels, but limited funds and a more limited mentality. He was, 
besides, championing a most unpopular cause. As a result, the 
paper, which counted among its few subscribers chiefly ecclesiastics 
and members of the court circle, was dragging on an inglorious 
existence, the butt of the press generally. It was this leaky ship, 
flying the colours of the aristocratic clique, that the former political 
prisoner, the author of humanitarian stories, the intellectual pro- 
letarian, the Christian democrat, engaged to captain. 


Dostoevsky entered upon his duties at the end of 1872. His de- 
cision to edit Grazhdanin was another instance of his capacity for 
getting himself into wrong situations. He had been at it only a few 
weeks when he cursed himself for having shouldered this responsi- 
bility. He was totally unfit for a task that required steady appli- 
cation and businesslike regularity. Moreover, the circumstances 
under which he worked were extremely trying. Although he was 
nominally the sole responsible head of the publication, in practice 
the owner, who was also a prolific contributor, insisted on exercis- 
ing his prerogatives and interfered at every turn. The crotcliety 
prince, whose wretched writings Dostoevsky had to spend hours 
licking into shape, neither respected his editor's opinions nor spared 


his feelings. There would be wrangling and procrastination through 
the week, and then all-night sessions in order to bring the issue out 
on time. And there were a thousand minor vexations. The owner 
allowed only scanty funds for running the paper, and as a result the 
people with whom the editor had to deal were frequently careless 
and disagreeable. And even a patriotic publication, exempt from 
preliminary censorship, could not avoid trouble with the authorities. 
Bostoevsky had not been at his duties a month when he failed to 
comply with some minor censorship regulation, and accordingly 
was sentenced to forty-eight hours in jail. He served his term over 
a year later, relieving the tedium by reading Les Miserables and 
listening to the keeper's admiring comment on Crime and Punish- 
ment. In the autumn the sale of the weekly was suspended because 
of an article criticizing the Government's handling of the famine 
situation in a certain province. There were things that Dostoevsky, 
for all his loyalty to his sovereign, could not stomach. Later on, 
an article against a bete noire of his, the Russians of German ex- 
traction, who were favoured in high places, again brought down the 
wrath of the authorities. 

The summer was the most trying time. The family was at 
Staraya Russa, but he, chained to the editorial desk, had to stay 
in the capital. The city was hot, dusty, deserted. He was alone. He 
missed Anna terribly, and the sight of the empty beds in the nursery 
hurt him. When there was a cool spell, he worried lest the 
children catch cold. He kept wondering if they were forgetting 
him. He dreamed of them: frightful nightmares in which little 
Fedya fell out of a fourth-storey window, or in which Luba, or- 
phaned and in the clutches of a wicked woman, was being flogged 
to death with heavy rods such as were used in punishing soldiers, 
and, at her last gasp, was crying: "Mamochka! Mamochka!" The 
nightmares drove him half mad, for he believed firmly in premoni- 
tion. For years his nights had been wrecked by terrifying dreams 
of fires, assassinations, and bloody battles. He did pay flying visits 
to the family, but good as it was to be with them, the trip tired him 
and the pressure of extra work on his return exhausted him. He 
did not get enough sleep and was often feverish. Sometimes he 
had to work in the twilight state that followed an attack, and nearly 
fainted at the end of a long session. He did not know how he held 


out. Moreover, his salary and income from the sale of The Possessed 
notwithstanding, he was still making trips to the pawnbroker, and 
the debts were mounting. 

One of the few satisfying contacts that he had during those dreary 
weeks was with Pobedonostzev. The senator, who had recently 
been honoured by an appointment to the Imperial Council, went 
out of his way to show his interest in the editor and to give him the 
benefit of his advice, to the end of helping a pubhcation which 
sought to stem the tide of reforms. He even contributed anony- 
mously to its pages. Dostoevsky could not but have been flattered by 
these attentions from a man of such eminence. 

There was yet another person who reheved his loneliness. Often 
that summer he worked not in his study or at the editorial offices, 
but in the printing house, where he would read proof, edit manu- 
scripts and even do some of his own writing. He was drawn there by 
the presence of a young v/oman, the proof-reader. She strikingly 
resembled his first wife and, like more than one of the women to 
whom he was attracted, was touched by the liberal notions of the 
time. For her part, the girl did not find this haggard, tense, dis- 
trustful, peevish man easy to work with. Her early experiences 
with him were distinctly disagreeable. He took an unmannerly 
pleasure in vexing her. And though he seemed locked within 
himself and perfectly controlled, he could rage like a boy in a 

As the weeks went by, a kind of intimacy sprang up between 
them. There were still days when he would come in, with the 
slow, dragging gait of one who had worn irons, in a mood so black 
that she dared not approach him. Sometimes he would plague her 
with questions about herself and freeze if she attempted to retort 
in kind. Here was an overbearing, intolerant man, who demanded 
nothing less than one's complete adherence to his way of thinking. 
But there was at least one moment when his pettiness and crusti- 
ness fell away, and he surprised her with the face of the genius 
she reverenced, young, radiant with animation, noble with spiritual 
power. There were times when he was genial and open with her, 
and they would talk freely, though there was always the risk of 
his snarling if the sceptic in her peeped out. If she caught him 
muttering to himself and gesticulating, she would know that he 


was dramatizing a scene preparatory to writing down a bit of dia- 

Occasionally they would sit over the ill-smelling galleys deep 
into the small hours, the room in darkness except where a single 
kerosene lamp shone on their work, on the pale, heated faces, and 
on his lean, knotty-fingered hand crushing another cigarette butt 
in the sardine-tin overflowing with ashes. At the end of one such 
late session, as the exhausted proof-reader was preparing to go 
home, he noted her bedraggled look and was put in mind of a 
story he had heard (or more probably invented), which he pro- 
ceeded to relate. Some young men, walking through the streets 
late at night in an exalted mood and reciting Schiller, came upon 
a prostitute and were so outraged by her appearance that they spat 
at her. Dostoevsky observed that, at this hour and in this state, 
his companion, the honest working-girl, might be mistaken for 
such a woman — truly, he wished that she were and that he might 
go to court along with her and make, oh. such a speech, against 
her virtuous defamers! 

One night in June, having pressed her to admit that this world 
was but the threshold to other worlds, he repeated after her in 
an unforgettable voice: "To other worlds!" and lifted his arms 
in an ecstatic gesture toward the transparent summer sky, crying 
out what a glorious, what a tormenting thing it was to speak to 
people of those worlds beyond this. Again, he broke off his work 
to say to her, in the tone of one revealing a great and terrible 
secret: "And these liberals don't even suspect that soon there will 
be an end to everything ... to all their progresses and chatter! 
They don't know that the Antichrist is already born . . . and his 
coming is near!" When his companion failed to show complete 
acquiescence in his belief, he struck the table with his fist and shouted 
with prophetic fervour: "The Antichrist is coming! Coming! And 
the end of the world is near at hand, nearer than people think!" It 
was to be half a century before Dostoevsky's world came to an 

With the return of the family from Staraya Russa in the autumn, 
home became a cheerful place again. There was, moreover, some- 
things of a social life for Dostoevsky. He joined the Association of 
Lovers of Religious Education and the Slavic Charitable Society, 


went now and then to their meetings, and enlarged the circle of his 
acquaintances. It now included a learned, pious, and charming 
youth who was the son of the greatest Russian historian then living, 
and the brother of one of Dostoevsky's most passionate admirers. 
The flowing locks, pale face, and deep eyes of this Vladimir Solov- 
yov made him look like Annibale Caracci's Christ, Dostoevsky 
believed, and reminded him, too, of the companion of his youth, 
Shidlovsky. Indeed, his intense spirituality, his amorousness, his 
fits of childlike laughter, his verse-making, his devotion to philo- 
sophy, combined to make him seem to the older man the very re- 
incarnation of that lost friend. 

As for his work, it was scarcely less of a burden than it had been 
during the summer. Instead of proving the relatively easy and agree- 
able affair he had expected, it sapped his energies and gave him 
nothing in return. There were not infrequent clashes with the owner 
of the paper. One day Prince Meshchersky sent in an article in which 
he recommended the establishment of cheap, attractive dormitories 
for students, to the end of preventing the spread of revolutionary 
propaganda among them. The dormitories, the author pointed out, 
would be advantageous to the students, and would enable the 
Government to keep them under surveillance. Using his editorial 
authority, Dostoevsky deleted the lines about the opportunity that 
this arrangement would give the Government to spy upon the youth. 
"I have the reputation of a man of letters," he wrote to the prince, 
"and besides, I have children. I don't intend to ruin myself. More- 
over," he concluded, in a line that he struck out, "your idea is 
wholly contrary to my convictions, and cuts me to the heart." One 
suspects that this was not the only occasion when Dostoevsky's 
views were at variance with those that prevailed in the Grazhdanin 

As "the accursed year," so he described it in a letter to Anna, 
drew to an end, life became a nightmare. There was nothing for 
him but to resign the editorship, which he did with a sigh of relief. 


In spite of all the attendant difficulties, Dostoevsky's journalistic 
activities afforded him a distinct satisfaction. The pages of Grahz- 


danin gave him an opportunity to present some of his convictions 
hitherto confined to private communications — directly and un- 
equivocally, as he could not in his fictions. At last he had a chance 
to speak his mind plainly on matters that interested him. Every 
week or so he contributed a piece under the general title, A Writ- 
er's Diary, in which he offered chatty comment on any subject that 
struck his fancy. These fugitive pieces, like his later work as a 
publicist, are of small interest in themselves, but they should be 
accorded a measure of attention for the light they throw upon his 
personality and upon his fictional writings. The diary is a prolix 
and rather dull medley of reminiscence and anecdote, opinion and 
invective, observation and prophecy. The tone is always personal, 
informal, at once dogmatic and uncertain. The diarist asserts, antici- 
pates objections, modifies his assertion, shifts his ground, returns 
to the original assertion. 

Only occasionally do the dusty pages glow with life when, aban- 
doning opinion and reportage, he notes the fancies that pass through 
his mind as he walks the Petersburg streets on a summer Sunday, 
trying to pierce the masks of the passers-by. Again, he gives free 
rein to his imagination and draws little sketches that might be car- 
toons for his canvases: a man of the people who drives his wife to 
suicide; a widowed workman and his little boy on a Sunday visit 
to a relative; a young peasant who, accepting a blasphemous chal- 
lenge, is about to shoot at the Host, but has a vision of the Cruci- 
fixion, collapses in a dead faint, and spends the rest of his life in 
penance. Once, for want of more suitable copy, Dostoevsky offered 
his readers a macabre skit, in which the narrator overhears the 
conversation of the denizens of a cemetery. Assuming that some sort 
of life goes on in the grave for a short while, the dead are shown 
planning to spend the period of respite in unbridled debauchery, 
such as the restraints of life on earth had denied them. A humble 
tradesman is the only decent soul among these lecherous corpses. 

Repeatedly the discussion revolves around the peculiar genius 
of the Russian people. The features of the nation's psychology, as 
marked by the diarist, show a suspiciously striking resemblance to 
the lineaments of his own nature. The Russians, one learns, know 
no measure, whether sinning or repenting; they are apt to trample 
upon the very things they hold sacred; they are the chastest and most 


foul-mouthed people; the abyss summons them, and embracing self- 
destruction they leap into it; their deepest need is suffering — without 
it even their happiness is incomplete. In their anguish they are sus- 
tained by the love of Christ, whom they adore. Dostoevsky was 
speaking, of course, of the unspoiled masses. "Thirst for pravda 
(righteous truth)" is also theirs. "The delicate reciprocity of lying," 
another Russian characteristic, presumably applies to the educated 
classes only. Dostoevsky notes ominous signs of demoralization 
among the common people, but is not disturbed: secure in their 
Orthodox faith, they will be saved: "Light and salvation will shine 
forth from below." In denouncing the laxity of the new courts, he 
points out that the Russian masses entertain a truly Christian view 
of crime: it is not his environment, but his own evil will that makes 
the criminal, yet the community shares the moral responsibility for 
the crime — the guilt lies equally upon all. This may or may not 
have been the belief of the people, but it was that of Dostoevsky, 
whose self-identification with all criminals may well have been one 
v/ay of acknowledging his own unappeasable sense of guilt. 

He loses no opportunity to lash out at "the leaders of European 
progressive thought," at all these Mills, Darwins, Strausses. In the 
heads of their Russian followers, he laments, their materialistic 
theories turn into "adamantine axioms." He is willing to concede 
that, while these men spurn religion, their intentions are "humani- 
tarian and majestic." But, he insists, give them a chance to build a 
new society, and the result would be "such darkness, such chaos, 
something so crude, blind and inhuman," that the edifice would be 
cursed out of existence before it was finished. The mind, having re- 
jected the guidance of Christ, it bound to go astray — "that is an 

The essayist tries his hand at literary and even at art criticism, 
and he comments at length on a temperance play. When he looks 
backward, his attention is centred on outstanding men he had 
known. There is a warped passage about Herzen, "the born ex- 
patriate," alienated from his land and its ideals. The decidedly good- 
natured account of the author's few meetings with Chernysh- 
evsky contrasts with the biased pages about his contacts with 
Belinsky. An enthusiastic believer in ethical socialism, a worshipper 
of reason, an atheist rejecting Christianity as "a false and ignorant 


humanitarianism condemned by modern science and economic 
principles" — such is E)ostoevsky's picture of his former master. He 
offers a retrospective estimate of the Petrashevists, too. Like the 
rest of them, he states, he had been infected with "theoretical social- 
ism" that saw things "in a pink and paradisally-moral hght," and 
dominated minds and hearts "in the name of some generosity." 
And yet, under proper conditions, he asserts, he and the others 
could have become the followers of that monster, Nechayev. In 
any event, as they stood on the scaffold listening to their death 
sentence, they felt anything but repentance. 

Besides the Diary, in the latter part of his incumbency Dosto- 
evsky contributed reviews of foreign affairs, partly a matter of 
shears and paste. He gave most of his attention to France, where 
the issue between the legitimists and the republicans was then hang- 
ing in the balance. He is not content with the role of a mere chrom'c- 
ler. He seeks to go beneath the surface, reading a religious meaning 
into the political drama. His reflections, however, are sometimes 
as unrealistic as they are unenlightened. The journalist is apt to 
retire abruptly, to reappear wearing the mantle of the prophet and 
uttering warnings, predictions, dark oracles. He sees in the conflict 
between Church and State in Germany the preliminary skirmish in 
the coming struggle between God and the new society that seeks to 
usurp His place. Tlie Franco-Prussian war is to him a clash between 
the Catholic and Protestant civilizations, a clash bound to recur 
again and again. He intimates that the royalist movement in France 
may be really a gigantic international scheme to restore the tem- 
poral power of the Pope. Should he fail here, he will join forces 
with the proletarians and embrace communism, for the Catholic 
Church would rather see Christianity perish than surrender its 
secular dominion. But that "lofty soul," Henri V, the claimant to the 
French throne, should know that his mission is not to save the 
worldly power of the Church, but to give battle to Antichrist, who 
is even now at the gates. Only by restoring her to Christ could 
France be saved from the evil effects of her revolution. But can 
she be saved at all? Has the source of her life dried up? Perhaps, 
Dostoevsky hints broadly, another great nation is destined to lead 
Western humanity. 


IT TOOK Dostoevsky several months to wind up the red tape 
connected with his resignation from Grazhdanin, so that it was 
only in April, 1874, that he was again a free man. While he had 
been slaving away at his editorial duties, he had told himself that he 
would need a long rest before he could take up his own work in 
earnest. But he was to know no respite. He was still in harness 
when he set to thinking seriously about, and jotting down notes 
for, another novel. Momentarily the new work presented itself to 
him as a "fantastic poem-novel" which he sketched out thus: 
"Future society, commune, uprising in Paris, victory, 200 million 
heads, terrible plagues, depravity, destruction of art, of libraries, 
a tortured child. Wrangling, lawlessness. Death." But his mind 
quickly turned away from such remote scenes to others nearer 
home, characters resembling Myshkin or Stavrogin, to figures out 
Qf The Life of a Great Sinner, all enveloped in an atmosphere reek- 
ing with the odour of a "chemically disintegrating" society. These 
images were as yet fluid and an acceptable plot was still to take 

But suppose Katkov had already stocked up on fiction for the 
coming year. Where could he go with his novel? Before he had a 
chance to communicate with the editor of Russky vestnik, however, 
he received a visit from Nekrasov, of all people — Nekrasov with 
whom he had fallen out so many years ago, and whose path since 
then had diverged completely from his own. For some time now the 
man had been editing Fatherland Notes, the review in which Dosto- 
evsky 's early work had appeared, and had succeeded in turning it 
into the successor to Sovremennik, which had been suppressed by 
the authorities. Anna, overcome with curiosity as to what had 
brought the distinguished visitor to their humble dwelling, did not 
hesitate to eavesdrop and was astonished to hear the editor of the 



great liberal review ask her husband to give him his next novel, 
naming a much higher rate than the one paid by Katkov. Nekrasov 
was not the man to let his political opinions stand in the way of 
capturing an important author. 

Dostoevsky replied that he was under moral obligation to offer 
his work to Katkov first, but should there be no place for it in 
Russky vestnik, he was ready to give it to Nekrasov's review. The 
higher rate was a great temptation. He then went to see Katkov in 
Moscow and found him willing to go as high as Nekrasov, but un- 
able to offer an advance, inasmuch as he had just bought Anna 
Karenina for publication the following year. Regretfully Dosto- 
evsky parted from the man who had so long been his publisher and 
agreed to turn over his novel, A Raw Youth, to the liberal 

Spring was now well under way, and with the help of the sizeable 
sum he had received from Nekrasov he was able to take the family 
to Staraya Russa. They were back in the same house in which they 
had summered the previous year. Situated on the outskirts of the 
town, it was more like a cottage in the country, with its flowers, 
its fruit trees, its vegetable garden, the detached bathhouse in 
which Dostoevsky could steam himself. When his little daughter 
grew up to be a woman she still remembered the tiny rooms fur- 
nished in Empire mahogany, the mysterious mirrors, green with 
age, the trapdoors and winding stairs, and recognized some features 
of the place in the house where old Karamazov was murdered. The 
family liked this retreat so well that they kept returning to it season 
after season and, in the end, bought it from the owner's heirs. 

From Staraya Russa Dostoevsky went to Ems in June for the 
cure. For some time he had been suffering from an affection of the 
lungs, which may have been aggravated by his spending long 
hours in the overheated plant where Grazhdanin was printed and 
thence going into the cold and damp of the Petersburg winter. 

Ems was romantically situated in a pleasant valley, but the prices, 
the prices! To be in time at the spring, he had to rise with the 
whole town at six o'clock, which meant that he must retire at ten, 
and how then could he write? Surely not when the sun was blazing 
in the streets and his fellow lodgers were noisily going about their 
business. But it was not really a question of writing yet; he was 


only drawing up the preliminary plan, and he could make very 
little headway. Possibly he was no longer capable of writing. Per- 
haps his attacks had robbed him not only of his memory, but of 
his imagination as well. But no, it was still active enough; when 
he looked over his notes, he realized that his scheme was suffering 
not from poverty, but from superabundance: he was trying to 
squeeze the stuff of four novels into one. But there was still time. 
If only he could shape a workable plot, the rest would follow easily. 

But after all, he had come here not to write, but to take the 
waters. He did so, conscientiously and resentfully, hating everything 
— the crowd, offensive Germans and no less disgusting Russians, 
that pushed and shoved around the Kurhaus\ the band music that 
always began with a dull Lutheran hymn; the climate; the food. 
Before he left he had come to abominate every house, every bush, 
and looked on everyone he met in the street as a personal enemy. 
When he compared this fashionable resort, frequented alike by the 
German emperor and his own tsar, with the Omsk prison, he de- 
cided that as a convict he had been better off. 

There was one thing to be said for Ems — his health did benefit 
by the cure. What interfered with the treatment was two severe 
epileptic attacks, which were all the more discouraging since the 
seizures now occurred less frequently: on the average, once every 
six weeks. Nothing else was to be expected of such a vile hole as 

He was horribly homesick. He worried about the children. He 
longed for Anna, though for one brief period, perhaps the first in 
his life, as he put it, he felt like a mummy. He thought about her 
continually — she had every virtue, he wrote to her, except that she 
was a little absent-minded, and slovenly. He assured her that she 
need not fear that he would be unfaithful: he wanted her and no 
one else; he simply could not think of another woman; yes, there 
was an end to all that; habit had become too strong for him; he was 
a family man once and for all. She must have feared that he would 
succumb to temptation of another sort: What was to prevent him 
from rushing off to the tables? But he didn't. He stuck it out at 
Ems and left with his chest condition improved and with two 
alternate outlines for his novel. Before returning home he went to 
visit the little grave in the Geneva cemetery and took some cypress 


Iwigs from there to Anna. He also brought her some black silk 
for a gown. 

He was back with the family at Staraya Russa in August. He was 
facing a period of strenuous work. Would his health hold out? And 
would they scrape along? The advance on the forthcoming novel 
would soon have been spent, and he could get no more out of the 
tight-fisted Nekrasov until he had a substantial amount of copy to 
show. The money that had been trickling in from the sales of The 
Possessed and The Idiot, published early in the year, was a drop in 
the bucket. What worried him most of all was that Nekrasov would 
insist on deleting from his unwritten manuscript certain passages in- 
consistent with the liberal tendency of the review. In such an event, 
there would be nothing for him to do but withdraw his work and 
refund the advance, God knows how. And where would he take his 
book? They must economize, and speedily. At Anna's suggestion, 
they decided to winter at Staraya Russa, thus saving on rent and 
living expenses and providing Dostoevsky with quiet in which to 
work. She also looked forward to having more of him than winters 
at the capital gave her. 

During the months that followed, the lower story of the spacious 
old house on Ilyinskaya Street, where they established themselves, 
was the scene of domestic joys and earnest work. Of course, he was 
never free from the threat of an epileptic attack. He had a violent 
seizure on E>ecember 28, at eight o'clock in the morning, in bed. He 
described his state of mind on regaining consciousness in these 
broken words: "Felt troubled, sad; remorse and fantastic mood. 
Was very irritable." He recorded in detail another fit which struck 
him down April 6 of the following year. It occurred half an hour 
after midnight and was preceded by a strong premonition. He had 
just rolled some cigarettes and was pacing the floor, when he 
dropped in the middle of the room, remaining unconscious about 
forty minutes. When he came to, he found himself sitting at his 
desk, pen in hand, and noted that he had rolled four cigarettes in 
an unconscious state — an instance of the automatism that usually 
follows the seizure. He had a headache and pain in his sides and 
legs, and the fear of death was so strong in him that he dared not 
lie down. An hour later he tried to write an account of the attack, 
but could scarcely marshal the words. 


The seizures came at irregular intervals. When the attack was 
delayed, he and Anna would await it anxiously. Concealing her 
fears, she would try to watch her husband without his noticing it. 
He might drop anywhere. Once he was almosi drowned in the 
bathtub. They would place a mattress next to the couch on which 
he slept, in case he should have a seizure in his sleep and roll off. 
When she heard the eerie cry that preceded the fit — it rang in her 
ears after thirty-five years — she would rush over to him and draw 
his head down to her breast, lest he hurt it in falling, and stuff a 
handkerchief into his mouth so as to prevent him from biting his 

That winter at Staraya Russa, however, was a singularly peaceful 
one. Anna and the children kept well, and his cough was better. 
Never had life been so quiet, so orderly, so like the monotonous ex- 
istence of a respectable burgher; never had he been so much the 
good family man. He would give the children sweets, romp with 
them, and, to distract the little girl, who was given to weeping, 
would get up a mazurka of an evening, in which the whole family 
participated. As darkness settled over the sleepy town, he would 
tell them fairy tales or read them fables. They had, he thought, 
sensitive, poetic natures, and he was pleased by it, as long as they 
didn't take to this accursed business of writing. At bedtime 
he always came in to give them his blessing and say their 
prayers with them, preferring the little prayer of his own childhood: 
"All my hopes T place in thee. Mother of God; shelter me under 
thy mantle." It was only late at night, after the children had long 
been asleep, and Anna, having played her customary games of 
patience, had been sent to bed, that the good burgher was changed 
into the rapt writer. He worked into the small hours, the only inter- 
ruption being the sound of the fire alarm — conflagrations were fre- 
quent and apt to wipe out whole blocks. He would rouse Anna 
when he heard the signal, and while he reconnoitred, she would 
dress the children and pack the manuscripts. But the scourge spared 

Tn the afternoon Anna would make a fair copy of what he had 
written the previous night for his revision. He knew, as she had 
once said, that she did not understand his business, and she some- 
times admitted that what he dictated was incomprehensible to her. 


yet he valued her criticism as that of a candid common reader. By 
October he was able to inform Nekrasov that he could definitely 
count on having the novel the following year. Indeed, the first in- 
stalment was being set up in the latter part of December. Just then 
it became a matter of public knowledge that Anna Karenina was to 
run the next year in Russky vestnik, and Dostoevsky was over- 
come by the fear that Nekrasov, knowing that his author's market 
was closed, would make him dance to his piping. He insisted to 
Anna that, even if he had to beg in the streets, he would not sacri- 
fice a single line where his convictions were concerned. His fears 
of editorial interference proved groundless, however, and the first 
instalment of A Raw Youth appeared in the issue of the review for 
January, 1875. 

Once during the winter and once again in the spring Dostoevsky 
went to Petersburg to see the editor, chiefly with a view to secur- 
ing further advances. Nekrasov, who liked the novel, was friendly 
and even generous. His old cronies, Maikov and Strakhov, however, 
struck him as rather chilly. Were they vexed with him for having 
sold himself to the enemy? Well, Maikov would come round in the 
end, but Strakhov, he wrote home, was "a dirty seminarist and 
nothing more." He'd played the deserter once before, after the 
failure of Epokha, and then come running back upon the success 
of Crime and Punishment. There was another fly in the ointment 
during Dostoevsky's winter trip to the capital: he had to listen to 
praise of Anna Karenina on all sides. He read the current instal- 
ment under the bell — he was taking compressed air treatments — 
and found the novel nothing extraordinary, — indeed, "rather dull." 
And to think that the count was getting just double his own rates 
for this stuff! 

Soon after his second visit to Petersburg Dostoevsky went to Ems 
again for a repetition of the cure. Once more there was a succession 
of dreary weeks filled with boredom, homesickness, anguished fears. 
He had left Anna in a delicate condition, and for some reason she 
thought she was going to present him with twins. He was worried 
about himself, he was worried about the family. He tried to find 
comfort by reading the book of Job and was filled with an ecstasy 
that brought him close to tears. He had to work — there wasn't a 
line written for the August instalment of the novel — he couldn't 


work, and besides he ought not to work: it might interfere with the 
cure. Still, he made an effort, producing nothing. The subscribers 
would simply have to wait till the following month. Once he was 
back home, he would get on with the book. Perhaps the novel was 
a failure, but no matter; his powers were still with him, he would 
do something yet. 

Indeed, when he was back at Staraya Russa he was able to make 
progress with the novel in spite of the interruption caused by the 
birth of the baby. It was a boy, and they called him Alexey, for 
Saint Alexey, Man of God, whom Dostoevsky particularly revered. 
They stayed in the country till autumn, and on a fine Indian-summer 
day returned to Petersburg. The trip, for a family including two 
small children and an infant, as well as a wagonload of household 
goods, was no simple matter. They had to travel part of the way 
by steamer, and as the harbour was too shallow for the boat, the 
passengers went out to board it. Stout peasant women offered their 
broad backs, for a consideration, to those ladies and gentlemen who 
were too squeamish to wade to the rowboats that took them to the 
steamer. Having been the first to be thus transported, Dostoevsky 
stood in the boat and received, one after another, the children, who 
were screaming with fear. In the confusion the travellers almost lost 
the precious chest containing the manuscript of the next instalment 
of the novel. But they managed to reach the capital safely. There, in 
spite of the disturbance of settling in a new apartment, Dostoevsky 
succeeded in finishing the final section of the novel, which appeared 
in the November and December issues of the review. 


Dostoevsky's first tale, written in his early manhood, dealt with 
the tragedy of a broken-down middle-aged clerk; now, himself a 
middle-aged man, he was attempting, in A Raw Youth, to speak 
with the tongue of adolescence. Miraculously, he succeeded. What 
freshness there was in the writing, and that coming from a man past 
fifty, Nekrasov said to the author, on reading the first part of the 
novel in proof. Indeed, what one might expect Dostoevsky to have 
learned — sobriety in the invention and handling of his plot and his 
characters, economy of means, and clarity of thought — is missing; 


but what the years might well have erased — understanding of a 
boy's heart, a sense of the urgent heat, of the anguish of youth — is 
triumphantly there. 

The story is in effect a partial autobiography of the "raw youth/' 
an account of a crucial year, the twentieth, in Arkady's life. It is set 
down with a mixture of brusqueness, tenderness, and spluttering 
bravado that admirably conveys a turbulent emotionalism strug- 
gling with a shamed consciousness of iidivete and inexperience. 
Although bearing the name of his mother's legal husband, a former 
serf, the boy is really the son of a gentleman, and he is painfully 
aware of his false position. He had a neglected childhood, and at 
boarding school (a thinly disguised and blackened picture of 
Souchard's or Ghermak's) suffered untold humiliations to which 
he responded by further abasing himself before his tormentors. All 
the while he was remaking the world in his imagination and with- 
drawing into himself, consumed by a longing for his true father, an 
idealized image of whom he had built up in his heart. 

He was still at school when he conceived his "Idea": he would 
deliberately cut himself off from all human associations and dedi- 
cate himself to the systematic accumulation of the wealth of a 
Rothschild, not for the sake of the power that it would bring, but 
for the mere consciousness of such power. This "Idea" was an old 
conception of Dostoevsky's — a variant of it may be traced back 
through The Life of a Great Sinner and The Idiot to the early story, 
"Mr. Prokharchin." On the one hand, Arkady's project is a com- 
pensation for his humiliating circumstances; on the other, it offers 
the attractions of an ascetic discipline. On graduation he proceeds 
to carry out his plan, when he receives a summons from his real 
father, Versilov, to come to Petersburg. Without abandoning his 
"Idea," he sets off for the capital, drawn there by the dream of 
finding and at last possessing his father, and with vague notions of 
punishing him for his sins and avenging him on his enemies. Yet 
another motive impels him: into the hning of his coat is sewn a 
document which delivers into his power a young widow of high 
rank and great beauty between whom and Versilov there is an ob- 
scure and potent bond. In Petersburg young Arkady is certain to 
meet this Katerina Nikolayevna Akhmakova and to triumph over 


Upon his arrival there develops a complicated series of events 
which, though presented with a concern for realistic precision, are 
in the main crude and tangled melodrama. The document in Ark- 
ady's possession is desperately sought by Katerina Nikolayevna 
because, were it shown to the wealthy old prince, her father, she 
would be disinherited; by Versilov's legitimate daughter (Arkady's 
half sister) who wishes to marry the doddering old man for his 
money; by Versilov himself as a weapon in his weird combat of 
love-hate with the beautiful widow. The plot entails seductions, 
suicides, threatened duels, gambling, a legal contest over a will, with 
blackmailers, counterfeiters, and political conspirators enlivening 
the scene. Directly or indirectly, the raw youth is involved in the 
interplay of these greeds and lusts. 

When he catches his first glimpse of the enchanting lady, she 
snubs him cruelly, but he feels himself protected from her insults 
by his possession of the letter which puts her in his power; more- 
over, the hatred he thought he bore her dissolves into a tenderness 
for her as his potential victim. This emotion develops into a passion 
which has all the feverish excitement and rarefied exaltation of 
adolescent love. 

Not for a moment does the boy cease to hunger secretly for his 
father. When he first came to Petersburg, he did not know whether 
he hated or loved him, but his whole being was bound up with 
him, and he was continually trying to puzzle out the mystery of his 
character. The boy's pent-up resentment finally finds vent in an 
indignant outburst against Versilov, in which he bids his mother 
choose between this mart and himself. Yet when Versilov glances 
at him with hatred, he rejoices, knowing that at last his father has 
taken serious notice of him. One generous gesture on the man's part 
is enough to make his son's repressed love for him find release, and, 
the father taking the first step towards him, the boy flings himself 
into his arms. He throws himself upon his new-found parent "like 
a starving man upon bread," idolizes him, tyrannizes over him, 
and yet still withholds some part of his confidence. As for Versilov, 
he is tender towards his son and treats him with a kind of patient 
wisdom, but also has his reserves. 

Arkady comes in contact with all manner of people, including 
a set of young radicals, with whom he is out of sympathy, and 


an original of Kirillov's stripe whom he — and, one feels, his creator, 
too — deeply admires. This young man, having convinced himself 
that the Russians are a second-rate people, with no role to play in 
history, commits suicide. What with one interest and another ab- 
sorbing him, Arkady allows his Rothschild "Idea" to fall into 
abeyance. He is so sure of his devotion to it that he can permit 
himself to drop it temporarily without compunction. His plan, he 
believes, is not so much an idea, as what he calls an "idea-feeling": 
a theory so transfused by emotion as to be impermeable to reason 
and only to be dislodged by a stronger feeling. Far from following 
the ascetic discipline upon which he had resolved, he plunges into 
a life of easy excitements, playing the dandy and gambling, all on 
borrowed money. He is weak in the knowledge of good and evil, 
and instinct is a doubtful guide. What now makes him walk on air 
is the sudden graciousness towards him of the beautiful Katerina 
Nikolayevna. He cannot keep his transport to himself and makes 
a clean breast of it to his father, only to discover with horror that 
in this enigmatic man he has a rival! One blow follows another, 
until the curtain of illness mercifully falls between him and the 
consciousness of his degradation. 

During his convalescence Arkady suddenly encounters his nom- 
inal father, the pious vagabond, Makar Ivanovich, who is on one 
of his rare visits to his "family." Dostoevsky had proclaimed often 
enough that the Russian masses were alone the vessel of the true 
religion. In Makar he attempted to present a concrete embodiment 
of the faith by which the people lived. Like the hero of The Idiot, 
he exemplifies the Christian virtues of humility, non-resistance, and 
selfless love, a saintliness which he has not attained through sin, 
but which is native to him. But while Myshkin has an aristocratic 
background, Makar is a former house serf, a servant and the son 
of a servant, with the superstitions and prejudices of his class. His 
place in the pattern is that of a foil for the divided souls that people 
the novel. But he has the artificiality of a figure contrived to illus- 
trate a theory. His serenity, in contrast to the mad passions of the 
others, fails to be impressive, because he is outside of life, not 
coping with its problems. 

Arkady is at once drawn to the old pilgrim, who has now come 
to the end of his journeys. "He has something firm in life, and all 


the rest of us here haven't anything firm in Hfe to stand on," cries 
the boy in defence of the old man, when someone, with invidious 
intention, calls him a tramp. The firm thing in Makar's life is an 
orderly, a religious view of the universe, a humble happy sense of 
his own place in it, and therewith a serene acceptance of life and 
death. It is just this dignity, a decorum religious in its basis and 
producing a kind of aesthetic satisfaction, what Arkady calls "seem- 
liness," that he admires in the old man. Usually the adolescent 
strives to cut loose from the familiar, familial, "seemly" back- 
ground; the raw youth, on the contrary, mortified since childhood 
by the irregularity of his position, yearns to achieve a father, a 
family background, a comforting sense of "seemliness." 

His enthusiasm for his nominal father moves the boy to another 
indignant outburst against his real father, and not having fully re- 
covered from his illness, he sufl'ers a relapse. In his delirium he has 
a dream; his beautiful lady enters, abject fear in her face, and fawns 
upon him, in the hope of gaining the document which is in his hand; 
he flings it to her contemptuously, and is about to leave her when 
Lambert, a former schoolmate turned professional blackmailer, 
eggs him on with a leer to demand "the ransom"; on seeing them 
together, the woman who had given him such exalted moments is 
suddenly transformed into a lewd creature; his first horror, his 
disgust and pity at once give away to a new feeling "strong as the 
whole world"; he savours the shamelessness of it as he answers the 
invitation of her insolent lips. 

The youth perceives clearly the significance of this dream and 
interprets it in a fashion that anticipates psychoanalytic theory. It 
reveals to him that for all the urgency and sincerity of his moral 
yearning, there is in him a secret lust for what he feels to be de- 
praved — that he has "the soul of a spider." The latent desires that 
his conscious mind dared not confront were revealed to him in 
his dream: ". . . in sleep the soul presented and laid bare all that 
was hidden in the heart. . . ." In a story written shortly after this 
novel was completed Dostoevsky had the narrator observe: "Dreams 
seem to be moved not by reason, but by desire, not by the head, but 
by the heart, and yet what complicated tricks my reason has played 
sometimes in dreams . . .," and again: ". . . it happened as it always 
does in dreams when you skip over space and time, and the laws of 


existence and reason, and only pause upon the points for which the 
heart yearns." Throughout Dostoevsky's work there is scattered 
evidence that he had an uncanny insight into the nature of dream 

In his previous dealings with both his father and the lady, 
Arkady, had been strangely disingenuous — in the midst of the trans- 
ports of discovering his father, at the height of the pure ecstasy 
aroused in him by Katerina Nikolayevna, with "music in his soul," 
he lies almost casually to them both about the document. It is the 
dream that discloses to him the dual nature of his impulses. "It has 
always been a mystery," he reflects, "and I have marvelled a thous- 
and times at that faculty in man (and in the Russian, I believe, more 
especially) of cherishing in his soul the loftiest ideal side by side 
with utter baseness, and all quite sincerely." 

Arkady's dream is not merely revealing, it is also prophetic. He 
does not obey his first impulse and destroy the incriminating 
document; instead he listens with a thirst for shamefulness to 
Lambert's proposal that they use it to blackmail Katerina Niko- 
layevna, but with a sudden revulsion of feeling, abandons the plan. 
It is only when, by eavesdropping, he learns of his father's mad 
passion for the lady and her ambiguous attitude towards him that 
he makes common cause with the blackmailer, and decides to 
demand of her both money and her virtue in exchange for the docu- 
ment. He tells himself that he will show his father the sort she is, 
and thus save him from his infatuation; actually, he is moved by 
jealousy of Versilov. Again his better self prevails, and he resolves 
to surrender the document freely and to effect a general reconcilia- 
tion, when he discovers that Lambert has stolen the letter. The final 
scene is as implausible as it is sensational and involves Versilov's 
frustrated attempt to murder the lady and kill himself. Yet Dosto- 
evsky manages to ring down the curtain on a happy ending. 


The novel is not confined to the adolescent's oscillations be- 
tween good and evil. With his usual lack of measure, Dostoevsky 
brings in another motif, which runs parallel to the first and to some 
extent overshadows it. It is the story of the raw youth's father. 


Versilov. There is an air of enigma, of mystery about him, which 
is never completely dispelled. His son succeeds only partially in 
puzzling out the riddle, nor does the reader fare much better. A 
gentleman of intelligence and cultivation, a man of the world who 
has managed to run through three fortunes, he is capable of extreme 
quixoticism as well as of the lowest intrigues, neither consorting 
with his social position. He is the sort of man to whom queer gossip 
clings. It is rumoured that at one time he had run after little girls, 
and again that he had had a phase of religious fervour so intense 
that he practiced asceticism. Is his the strong, proud nature of one 
unwilling to bow to man and therefore seeking a God to bow down 
to? He is evasive about his faith, but on one occasion describes 
himself as a philosophical deist. At any rate, he is far from being 
a Christian: he advises his son to shut his eyes and hold his nose 
in order to love his neighbour, since love him one must, adding: 'T 
believe that man has been created physically incapable of loving 
his neighbour." (Among the notes Dostoevsky made for the novel 
there is this jotting, clearly belonging to the same complex of ideas: 
"Undoubtedly Christ could not love us such as we are. He tolerated 
us. He forgave us, but, of course. He despised us"). He has none 
of his creator's violent animus against atheists, but one hears Dosto- 
evsky's voice when Versilov grieves over the way they hiss God and 
pelt Him with mud, as also when he speaks of the forlorn lot of 
man, stripped of immortality and orphaned of God, and of the 
eventual return of Christ, ending with the rapturous hymn that 
greets "the last resurrection." 

While leading a parasitic, meaningless existence, Versilov prates 
of the spiritual leadership of the class to which he belongs and of 
his own championship of the Russian idea. The role of the nobility 
is connected in his mind, as it was in Prince Myshkin's, with the 
mission of his country. This mission is the harmonizing and the 
reconciling of the separate principles for which each European 
nation stands. The true Russian gentleman, promenading his melan- 
choly through the declining West, he sees himself as the only good 
European, worshipping every stone that tradition has hallowed, 
dreaming of Europe's lost Golden Age (this passage is lifted bodily 
from the unpublished chapters of The Possessed, where the dream 
is Stavrogin's), and seeing before him its fading sunset. For some 


unexplained reason Versilov at one time almost committed the 
cardinal sin of expatriation; it would have been the act of a 
"crippled" soul, a "book man," a wanderer, with no roots in his 
native soil (the act of a Raskolnikov or a Stavrogin). 

Oddly enough, this homeless aristocrat is made to share Dos- 
toevsky's disgust with the materialistic's solution of the social prob- 
lem, "turning stones into bread," and rejects what he calls the 
"Geneva idea," which he aptly sums up as "virtue without Qirist." 
Dostoevsky must have been thinking of the conference of the 
League for Peace and Freedom that had so outraged him when 
he attended its sessions in Geneva. It was a characteristic thrust at 
the socialists, and he allowed himself one more where Arkady, at 
a gathering of young hotheads in the house of one, Dergachov, 
repudiates their rational millennium as a thing of "barracks, com- 
mon lodgings . . . atheism, and common wives without children," 
and refuses to give up his "entire personality" in exchange for the 
"mediocre advantage" of their system. The group is rather closely 
patterned on the Dolgushin circle which, in July, 1874, while Dosto- 
evsky was taking the cure at Ems, was being tried in Petersburg on 
the charge of having secretly printed and disseminated appeals in- 
citing the masses to rebellion. Whether because Dostoevsky was 
writing for a liberal periodical, or because he was now able to re- 
call his own youthful errors with some equanimity, the pages about 
the Dergachov set do not carry the venom that exudes from The 

One of the less successful of Dostoevsky's inventions, Versilov 
is a wavering, insubstantial, incoherent image that one never quite 
seizes upon. He lacks the opacity and solidity of a character exist- 
ing in his own right; he suggests something transparent and fluid 
in which one sees plainly floating fragments of Dostoevsky's think- 
ing. The one unmistakable feature of his make-up is his duality. 
He is afflicted with what Myshkin calls "double thoughts," the 
simultaneous presence of contradictory impulses. "I can with per- 
fect convenience," he observes on one occasion, "experience two 
opposite feelings at one and the same time, and not, of course, 
through my own will." On another occasion he describes his state 
of mind thus: ". . . It is as though my mind split in two. . . . It's 
just as though your double were standing beside you; you are 

sensible and rational yourself, but the other self, close beside you, 
wishes at any cost to do something perfectly senseless, and some- 
times something very funny; and suddenly you notice that it is you 
yourself who wants to do that amusing thing, and goodness knows 
why; that is, you want to, as it were, against your will; though you 
fight against it with all your might, you want to." He analyses his 
condition thus just before he breaks in two pieces the revered icon 
that Makar, the pilgrim, had bequeathed to him, an act which at 
once dramatizes his emotional division and represents his rebellion 
against his moral obligations. Versilov's son, who resembles him in 
this respect, goes so far as to erect his simultaneous allegiance to 
good and evil into a "faculty" of the human race, and particularly of 
his compatriots. There is also another character, the worthless young 
prince, who is an example of the "roomy" heart. In fact, none of 
Dostoevsky's other novels offers so thorough a study of emotional 

The theory crops up repeatedly in Dostoevsky's writings, that 
the Russian nature is peculiarly "broad," being able to harbour at 
the same time contradictory impulses. But when he put forward 
this notion, was it because he had closely examined his country- 
men, or was it because he imagined them to be much like himself? 
A lady of his acquaintance complained to him that she was plagued 
by a duality of impulses that compelled her constantly to do things 
she knew she should not do and left her in a maze from which only 
an expert psychologist could extricate her. In his reply to her letter, 
Dostoevsky wrote that this was a trait common to humanity, 
though perhaps exaggerated in her, adding: "That is why you are 
akin to me, because this duality of yours is like my own to the dot, 
and I've had it all my life. It is a great torment, but at the same 
time a great delight. . . ." He knew of only one remedy: "If you 
believe (or strongly wish to believe), give yourself wholly to Christ. 
The torments of this duality will be greatly reduced, and your soul 
will find release. . . ." Nowhere does he indicate so unambiguously 
as in these lines, written the last year of his life, the therapeutic 
function of his own faith or of his will to believe. 

Versilov's lack of emotional integration shows itself most clearly 
in the history of his relations with Katerina Nikolayevna. It is not 
quite plain how the affair began, and from the first it seems to have 


been an ambiguous one, in which love and hatred, high-mindedness 
and baseness, were curiously commingled. When the novel opens the 
two are far apart, but one gathers that under his professed scorn 
for her the old passion still glows, while her attitude toward him 
is one of apparent fear. His son's raptures over her rouse the 
smouldering fires, and thenceforward his every move testifies to the 
strife within him of conflicting emotions. Goaded by jealousy, he 
betrays his son's confidence and writes her an insulting letter, bid- 
ding her refrain from seducing the boy. He tries to interfere with 
her prospective marriage. She writes him a calm and friendly letter 
asking that their relations be brought to a peaceful end, and he 
feels miraculously released from his obsession. Almost simultan- 
eously old Makar dies. At last Versilov can marry that gentle 
creature, the raw youth's mother, who for so long had been his 
wife in fact but not in name. A new life is about to begin. He has 
no sooner joyfully announced his intention to his son than he turns 
around and offers marriage to Katerina Nikolayevna. He sends 
her the proposal through his legitimate daughter — he is a widower 
— who is herself plotting to become the lady's stepmother. Kater- 
ina Nikolayevna refuses him, but consents to see him. At the meet- 
ing he shows himself possessed by passion, while she seems to want 
nothing but friendship. In his despair and rage he lends his support 
to the blackmailer, expecting to see her humiliated, and it is when 
she is confronted by Lambert that Versilov completely loses his self- 
control and attempts to kill both her and himself, but only inflicts 
a slight wound on himself. 

The object of Versilov's passion is not much more clearly drawn 
and not much more comprehensible than he. She is guided by 
sordid considerations and yet is described as a woman of irreproach- 
able purity. She speaks of herself as a peaceful person, liking cheer- 
ful companions, and yet as being "a little after Versilov's kind," 
and, indeed, he tells her that they are "possessed by the same mad- 
ness." It is the raw youth who discovers in her "the ideal woman," 
effortlessly perfect, the embodiment of what Versilov called "the 
living life," something which is the very opposite of the cerebral 
and theoretical, something so simple, natural, and direct that one 
fails to notice it and so goes seeking it in impossible places all orte's 
days. The "earthly queen," Katerina Nikolayevna, sometimes 


seems to be antipodal to that utterly selfless woman, Arkady's 
mother, who embodies the spiritual principle, so that Versilov, with 
his emotions divided between the two, is a man torn, as it were, 
beiween heaven and earth. He loves the mother of his illegitimate 
children with a "humane and general love," whereas what he gives 
Katerina Nikolayevna is "the simple love that one feels for woman." 
One cannot escape the feeling that Dosloevsky was groping here for 
a symbolic expression of his more recondite thoughts about man's 
destiny, but the characters did not compose into a significant pat- 
tern — the symbol eluded him. 

It has been suggested that Versilov's passion for Katerina Niko- 
layevna was Dostoevsky's way of symbolizing the striving of this 
vagrant man to re-establish his bond with his native soil. Such 
an interpretation is as ingenious as it is dubious. What is less de- 
batable is the primary intention behind the book, the urge that 
animates it. The novel was still in embryo when Dostoevsky told 
a friend that he had come out from the shadows of the underground 
and was now capable of producing a work of a serene and healing 
character. Certainly, A Raw Youth, unlike The Idiot and The 
Possessed, offers an attempt at a happy ending. The event toward 
which this creation appears to move is the healing of a sick spirit, 
the exorcism of a demon, the regeneration of a man. When the 
story opens the raw youth is "a bundle of all kinds of amour 
propre," as he describes himself, dedicated to his inhuman "Idea." 
The experiences of the year with which the book deals results in 
drawing him away from his madness; the very recording of them 
helps to effect the re-education of the young man. A new life is 
beginning for him, but, as in the case of Raskolnikov, this is 
merely indicated, and no attempt is made to depict it. 

As for Versilov, at first he had been conceived as another Stavro- 
gin, and he was to have had the same fate. In the end, however, the 
novelist had decided to make him not a "cold" atheist, like that 
lost soul, but a "hot" one, an anguished unbeliever. Therein lies 
the secret of his salvation. His bullet wound healed, he begins to 
lead a new life — the catastrophe has been for him a spiritual cathar- 
sis. His marriage to Arkady's mother is in abeyance, but one is 
given to understand that he will never leave her side and that he 
is free of his passion for Katerina Nikolayevna. He has become 


wonderfully softened and sweet-natured and has received what the 
old pilgrim, speaking of a sinner's conversion, had once called "the 
gift of tears." One leaves him as he sits beside his lifelong com- 
panion, stroking her hair, kissing her hands, and "with the light 
of perfect happiness in his face." Alas, nothing could prove more 
clearly than this treacly ending that Dostoevsky was incapable of 
portraying the shriving of a sinner. 


NOT ALL of A Raw Youth had been published, indeed, not 
all of it had been written, when Dostoevsky came to the 
desperate conclusion that the novel was "lost," and that it 
would be "buried with all honours under universal contempt." He 
was thinking chiefly of the critics, whom he had definitely alienated 
by The Possessed. As a matter of fact, their hostility was somewhat 
mitigated because A Raw Youth appeared in a progressive review. 
But the author himself must have been even less pleased with his 
work than usual. This effort, more than previous ones, gave him 
reason to feel that his performance lagged painfully behind his 
intention, and that, as Versilov puts it, the thoughts did not always 
ripen into words. He was never to know the sense of accomplish- 
ment, his reach always exceeding his grasp, but he was sustained 
by a feeling of the great potentialities within him. A few months 
before his death, when he was deep in The Brothers Karamazov, 
he wrote to an acquaintance: "Just imagine, at moments of inner 
accounting I am often painfully aware that I have expressed literally 
not one twentieth part of what I want, and perhaps am able, to say. 
What saves me is the constant hope that at some future time God 
will send me so much inspiration and power that I shall express 
myself more fully, in a word, that I shall utter everything that is 
locked up in my heart and my imagination." 

In some ways, however, A Raw Youth could not but be a satis- 
faction to him. In no other work had he so fully objectified that 
sense of duahty which dogged him all his life, and his straining 
toward a faith which would integrate his divided self and would 
give him spiritual health. Besides, the story of A Raw Youth was 
a partial realization of a project he had long had at heart. In 
Arkady's unprotected childhood, in his dream of isolation and 
power, in his association with a corrupt schoolmate, in his moments 



of tenderness and aspiration, in the influence upon him of a saintly 
old man (his legal father), one recognizes elements that were to 
have formed part of The Life of a Great Sinner. Yet nothing could 
be further from the serene piety that narrative was to breathe than 
the violence and sordidness which crowd with melodramatic inci- 
dent the pages of this novel. Would he ever achieve sufficient inner 
quietude to write that edifying tale? 

Meanwhile, he was not really dispirited. He was fifty-five, and 
not in the least weary. The years had "flashed by like a dream." 
He knew that he had only a short time ahead of him, yet he felt, 
so he wrote to Audrey, as though his life '*were only beginning." 
And here was Audrey's daughter getting married! How well he 
remembered the night when his father had come to wake him and 
Mikhail to tell them that their little brother had come into the 
world. His own children were growing up, and he was practically 
a grandfather, what with Pasha raising a large family. Dostoevsky 
learned to his horror that one of the babies had been relegated to 
a foundling asylum. Marya Dmitrievna's offspring, now a man in 
his thirties, had not improved with the years. Unable to hold on 
to a job, he remained a drain on his stepfather's purse and, thanks 
to his lies, his pretences, his general irresponsibility, an unmitigated 
nuisance to the end. In spite of everything, Dostoevsky continued 
to feel a duty toward the black sheep, and indeed, an obstinate 
affection for him. There was nothing to lessen Anna's dislike of 
her husband's stepson, and although little Lubov and Fyodor adored 
the clownish fellow, she did all she could to keep the two house- 
holds apart. 

Whether or not Dostoevsky agreed with his wife in this matter, 
he certainly wanted only the best influences in his children's lives. 
He felt that he must exert himself to nourish their minds in these 
impressionable years, to give them memories that would always 
sustain them. Naturally, their upbringing was a religious one. He 
made a point of taking Lubov, while she was a very little girl, to 
the midnight Easter mass. Her reminiscences present the man wh(^ 
introduced child psychology into literature as a fond, but unimag- 
inative and pedantic parent, bearing some resemblance to his own 
father. He took the children to the opera and, finding that a comic 
operetta had been substituted for the serious work on the pro- 


gramme, was about to take them away at once. Only their tearful 
protests restrained him, and he was annoyed to see that they enjoyed 
the entertainment. When they were about seven and five years old, 
he read them Schiller's Robbers, a performance that had the natural, 
if unintended, effect of putting them to sleep. Later on Scott and 
Dickens were their fare. The first book he gave his little daughter 
was Karamzin's History of the Russian State, the ponderous work 
that had been read aloud in the family circle in his own childhood. 

The fruit of his and Anna's tender nurture was to prove dis- 
appointing. Lubov grew into a vain, hysterical, greedy spinster, 
whose egotism and spitefulness knew no bounds. As her father had 
suspected, she eventually turned to literature, but produced only a 
fevv feeble tales. She spent most of her adult life in health resorts 
and died, an expatriate, in 1926, a few years after having written 
a biography of her father that does her no credit. As for Fyodor, 
a sufferer from depression, allergy and nervous disturbances, he 
was not without amiable traits. He appears to have been a believer 
but not to have shared his father's views about Orthodoxy or the 
Russian people, of whom he had a low opinion. A well-to-do dealer 
in cotton before the Revolution, he achieved something of a repu- 
tation among turfmen with his stables. He died at the age of fifty, 
leaving one son. 

Fortunately, Dostoevsky had no second sight with regard to the 
future of his children. Their immediate needs were a sufficient 
cause for anxiety. There were still debts. What should he turn 
to next? Anna's publishing venture — she had by this time issued 
several of his novels — was bringing in money, but not enough. He 
decided that the best step to take would be to resume the Writer's 
Diary he had run as a department in Grazhdanin. But now it was 
to be a wholly independent enterprise, a one-man review, financed 
and written by himself alone. He looked upon it as a preparation 
for the big novel that he was projecting. When a friend wrote him 
deploring the fact that he had engaged on a task unworthy of his 
powers, he answered that a writer must not only understand his 
craft, but must also know, "to the last detail and with the utmost 
precision," the reality that he depicts, and that his work on the 
Diary was a means of keeping abreast of current problems and. 
particularly, of studying the younger generation. He added that at 


his age "one can easily lose touch with the times if one relaxes the 
least bit." This was, however, not his sole motive in undertaking the 
venture. He also had a vague notion of disseminating his views and 
rallying a hke-minded group around himself. 

The unique journal made its debut in January, 1876, and there- 
after appeared none too regularly every month for two years. Anna, 
aided by an office boy, acted as business manager and factotum, 
and occasionally the nursemaid or a stray relative would be pressed 
into service to help with the work of wrapping, addressing, and 

The period that he devoied to the Diary, as far as Dostoevsky's 
private life was concerned, was unwontedly even and devoid of 
incident. The summers were spent in the country, the first one, as 
usual, at Staraya Russa. Again he went to take the cure at Ems. 
whence he wrote one desperate letter after another to his Anya, 
his angel, his all, his alpha and omega. He is racked by loneliness, 
by boredom, by "literary anguish," this time not over the next in- 
stalment of a novel but the next issue of the Diary. And the waters 
do not seem to help him. Next summer he must go to Munich; 
there is a Wunderjrau there who cures the incurable; if she fails 
him, he can always return to Ems. He is tormented by nightmares, 
by fears of an attack, by anxiety over the children, and by a passion- 
ate need of his wife. Separation is becoming increasingly difficult 
for him. He is in love with Anna all over again and more than ever. 
It is a new love. He is a nevv' man. Of course, he still has his whims 
and his hypochondria. How different the two of them are! He, with 
his simple nature — she so complex, so wide-hearted. The more he 
thinks about her, the more he marvels at her. She has, he writes 
her, a "vast intelligence," she could rule a kingdom. For himself 
he asks nothing better than to be ruled, indeed, enslaved, by her. If 
she went out more, she would have a whole string of admirers. 
Jealous as he was, he was prepared to suffer, if only she could have 
more diversion. Next winter she must certainly get herself fashion- 
able clothes and lead something of a social life. 

Next winter she stayed home, attending to her domestic duties 
and, in addition, acting as business manager for the Diary. By the 
end of the day she was too tired to accompany her celebrated hus- 
band to the evening parties that he now began to frequent. Society 


was in a mood to welcome a literary lion who, for all his queerness, 
spoke for God and Country, and Dostoevsky, on his part, was not 
averse to accepting the invitations of aristocratic hostesses. When 
he returned home, in the small hours, Anna would be up to serve 
him tea and listen to his account of what had been said and what 
the ladies wore — he was a poor hand at this, having no eye for 
colour and being ignorant of the vocabulary of fashion. She had her 
small pangs of jealousy, but feeling herself to be a mediocre, 
homely woman, no longer young — she was thirty — was content 
simply to serve and adore him. She had answered one of his pas- 
sionate letters from Ems by saying that she was proud to be loved 
by "the most magnanimous, most noble-hearted, purest, most 
honest, saintliest of men." She knew she didn't deserve such love. 
"You are my sun," she had written, "you are up on the mountain, 
and I am lying below and only worship." 

The summer of 1877 he did not take the family to Staraya Russa, 
but to his brother-in-law's estate in the South, and omitted his 
usual trip to Ems. He had to leave them in July, however, and go to 
Petersburg to see an issue of the Diary through the press. It was 
a horrible experience. Upon his arrival he had a seizure in his sleep, 
so that for several days he worked in a befogged state, and at night 
the fear of death was heavy upon him — if only he could see them 
once before the end! And Anya, Anya, after ten years of married 
life he was still madly in love with her. He missed her furiously, he 
prayed to her as to an icon. The days were distressing: he had to 
visit relatives, to settle accounts with booksellers, to run to the 
printer, to attend to all the worrisome details of mailing the issue, 
and in the intervals try to clear the house of the cockroaches that 
infested it. To make a bad matter worse, he did not hear from 
Anna. At the end of a night of insomnia he found himself pacing 
the floor in tears, trying to stifle his sobs so as not to be heard by 
the old servant, who kept screaming in her sleep. 

On his way back to the country he made a long detour to visit 
briefly the village of Darovoye where his childhood summers had 
been spent. He cursed this trip which was delaying his getting back 
to the family, but what could he do? He would soon be in no shape 
to stand the hardships of such a journey, and for the sake of his 
work he must refresh his remembrance of things past. "If one re- 


fused oneself these impressions, how, then, and about what would 
an author write?" he asked Anna in one of his unhappy letters. Tt 
was more than forty years since he had seen the place. He chatted 
with the peasants, went to see all the spots that stood out in his 
memory, and walked the road between Darovoye and Chermashnya 
on which his father had been murdered. The impressions of this 
visit did assist a work of the imagination which was vaguely shaping 
itself in his mind and which was soon to occupy him completely. 
For the present, however, he went on with the Diary. 


Dostoevsky had started this enterprise with the notion of offer- 
ing his readers the entries from an actual diary such as might be 
kept by an author keenly responsive to the passing scene. But he 
soon realized that this was impossible, and so had to abandon his 
naive idea and content himself with something more like conven- 
tional journalism. In tone and substance the Writer s Diary differs 
little from his contributions to Grazhdanin. Having, however, more 
space at his disposal here, he could widen the scope of his discus- 
sion and elaborate his views more fully, with the result that he in- 
volved himself more frequently in contradictions. He skips from one 
topic to another as fancy leads him, his subject matter ranging from 
spirit rapping to the science of fortification. As before, he indulges in 
polemics, and in autobiographical digressions. It is curious that in 
this Writer's Diary he deliberately refrains from commenting on cur- 
rent literature, making an exception of Anna Karenina, which he 
holds up as proof of Russia's national genius. He also touches 
briefly on Virgin Soil, but does not take advantage of this opportun- 
ity to remark upon the Populist movement with which Turgenev's 
novel deals. Indeed, it is noteworthy that in spite of Dostoevsky's 
avowed eagerness to keep abreast of the times and in spite of his pre- 
occupation with nihilism, the Diary scarcely mentions the revolu- 
tionary movement which had been growing since the early 

The one occasion that called forth a comment from him was the 
unprecedented event of December 6, 1876, when a group of students 
and working men assembled in the capital, before the Kazan 


Last portrait. Photograph taken in Moscow in June, 1880 

A W R/TER' S DI ARY 339 

Cathedral, and raised a red flag bearing the inscription, "Land and 
Liberty," the slogan of an underground revolutionary organiza- 
tion. Dostoevsky granted that the youth who took part in the 
demonstration may have been moved by a generous im.pulse, but 
he described them scornfully as "a whipped-up herd in the hands 
of a set of shrewd scoundrels." A year later a group of radical 
students in Moscow were beaten up by rowdies, and some young 
men from the university wrote to Dostoevsky asking his opinion 
of the incident. In his reply he conceded that the youth were ani- 
mated by a noble spirit. He pointed out, however, that the propa- 
gandists who had "gone to the people" had failed because they de- 
spised the very masses they were trying to save and, above all, 
scorned the faith by which these lived. He therefore advised his 
correspondents, if they really wished to accomplish their ends, to re- 
spect the common people as the only healthy part of a rotten social 
organism, and to believe in God. 

The views he had set forth in his earlier attempt at journalism 
and which are also present, sometimes quite explicitly, in his 
imaginative writings, are reiterated, in greater detail, in the Writer's 
Diary. It is natural that the problem of crime, which had always 
absorbed him, should hold a prominent place in these pages. There 
is lengthy comment on some of the sensational trials of the day, 
as well as an obvious interest in the more gruesome details of the 
crimes. The juries and the prestidigitating lawyers, the mechanical 
justice meted out by the state come in for obloquy. But what Dosto- 
evsky finds particularly revolting is the notion that the criminal is 
not responsible for his crime, that this is an effect of, and a protest 
against, the environment, that it can be rooted out simply by abol- 
ishing poverty, that it is, in fact, a social disease. No! he cries: 
"Crime is hidden more deeply in human nature than socialist 
physicians think." Evil is metaphysical, not a question of nerves or 
stomach. And then, in at least one noteworthy instance he acted 
on the very theory that he abominated. He read the account of the 
trial of a young peasant woman who had attempted to kill her little 
stepdaughter, and was struck by the fact that she was pregnant at 
the time. It occurred to him that it was the woman's condition that 
had led to her act. He said as much in the Diary: he went to visit 
her in prison; his suspicion was confirmed; he made an issue of it. 


The fact that she was given a retrial and eventually acquitted on the 
grounds of temporary insanity was in no small part due to his 

One looks in vain for intellectual consistency here. He will assert 
that the character of a nation depends on its form of land owner- 
ship, and interpret the history of France after the revolution and 
the career of the middleclass in terms acceptable to a Marxist. At 
the same time he takes the position that religion is the determining 
factor in the course of human affairs and that history is a battle 
of "ideas," that is, of the faiths by which the nations live. In the 
Western world the struggle is between Catholicism, Protestantism, 
and Eastern Orthodoxy. Since Protestantism is negative in essence 
and therefore negligible, the conflict resolves itself into that 
between the worldly dream of Rome and the ideal of the Orthodox 
Church. Both envisage the ultimate union of mankind, but by 
what different means! CathoHcism, more Roman than Christian, 
would unite men by force, relying on temporal power. This, Dosto^ 
evsky repeats endlessly, is a betrayal of Christ, a denial of His 
religion. From the failure of this Judas Church sprang socialism, 
or communism — the terms are used interchangeably (it will be re- 
called that the novelist foisted this notion on Prince Myshkin). 
Dostoevsky had never missed an opportunity to pour out his venom 
on the socialists; he did not now. They, too, would enslave 
kind, but without pretending to do it in the name of Christ. Their 
aim is to set up, in a God-bereft world, a human ant-hill, a mechan- 
ical congeries ruled by science. Their doctrine is the blackest 
calumny on human nature; it would mean utter economic con- 
fusion; it would destroy liberty; it would drown the world in blood. 
The Diary is haunted by the sinister plotting of Catholics and Com- 

On the other hand. Eastern Orthodoxy, obedient to the Saviour's 
precepts, repudiates coercion. The guardian of that faith, Russia 
alone holds by the true Christ, clinging to His garment with the 
rough hand of the peasant. In the West there is nothing to hold 
the greedy, lonely individuals together. Only in Russia is the sense 
of human brotherhood alive, only there can a real society arise. 
In the fulness of time she will unite men, not by appealing to self- 
interest or force, but through active love in the spirit of Christ, and 


mankind will become "like a great and magnificent tree shadowing 
the happy earth.'' Russia is well equipped for this task, for her 
people possess — and here the diarist was harping on an old idea 
of his — "the instinct of pan-humanity." This enables them to sym- 
pathize with alien ways of living and will eventually make it possi- 
ble for them to achieve a synthesis of the European national 
cultures — which the diarist has so often and somewhat gleefully 
pronounced dying or dead. 

At least once Dostoevsky declares that the one world he envisions 
will include not only the Japhetic peoples, but "even the seed of 
Shem and Ham." On other occasions he seems to restrict it to "the 
great Aryan race." Throughout, the Diary exhibits an animus 
against the Jews. Disliking these aliens with their peculiar ways 
and their traditional Messianism, which is an affront to his own 
belief in Russia's Messianic role, he practically identified the Jew- 
ish "idea" with the predatory materialistic individualism of the 
bourgeois West, and repeats glibly all the charges of the Jew-baiters. 
In an expansive moment he disclaims, however, any personal feel- 
ing against the Jews, allows that the Russian masses neither hate nor 
despise them and will eventually accept them as brothers. He goes 
as far as to advocate extension of full civil rights to his compatriots 
of the Jewish faith, only to add in the same breath that they already 
have more rights than the natives and that at the first opportunity 
they will invade the countryside and make the life of the peasantry 
worse than under the Tartar yoke. In The Brothers Karamazov 
Alyosha, an exemplar of Christian love and charity, is asked: "Is 
it tru6 that at Passover the Jews steal children and cut their 
throats?" His answer is: "I do not know." At the time when the 
novel began to appear a group of Jews in the Caucasus was tried 
on a charge of ritual murder, and the long-lived lie was being re- 
vived in the reactionary press, including Grazhdanin, of which 
Dostoevsky had been the editor. 

Much space is given to the Near Eastern question. In the summer 
of 1876 a ripple of sympathy and admiration for the Balkan Slavs, 
who had risen against their Turkish oppressors, ran over the 
country. Collections were taken up for the victims, war orphans 
were given refuge, Russian volunteers joined the Serbian forces. 
To the diarist this is "an epoch-making period." A great unifying 


and purifying emotion, he writes, is sweeping over Russia. The gap 
between the masses and the intellectuals is closing. Qearly deep 
within the folk there is a thirst for suffering in a good cause. The 
people know that Russia exists solely for the purpose of champion- 
ing Orthodoxy. Surely a nation capable of such a crusade is "spirit- 
ually intact.'' 

Dostoevsky greeted the formal opening of hostilities against 
Turkey on April 24, 1877, with religious enthusiasm. That day he 
noticed a crowd around a newsboy as he was on his way to the bank 
in a droshky with Anna. They stopped to buy a paper. It contained 
the war manifesto. He directed the coachman to drive them to the 
Kazan Cathedral. Ceaseless masses were being served before the 
icon of Our Lady of Kazan. He disappeared in the throng within 
the cathedral, and half an hour later Anna found him, so absorbed 
in prayer that he scarcely recognized her. There could be no thought 
then of going to the bank. He put away the text of the manifesto 
among his most precious papers. 

The apostle of Christian love is by no means a pacifist. The diarist 
sees a powerful moral stimulus in wars and he believes this one to 
be a step toward the fulfilment of the high destiny of Russia, which, 
he never tires of repeating, is to unite mankind in Christ. The con- 
flict will bring all the Slavs together — the Orthodox Slavs, of course 
— under Russia's motherly wing, and the world will witness an ex- 
ample of a true confraternity of peoples, not of a political federation 
based on self-interest. 

Other more momentous results will issue from the struggle, 
Dostoevsky vaticinates. The Russo-Turkish conflict will turn into 
a European war. Taking advantage of the fact that Russia, Ger- 
many's "eternal ally," has her hands full in the Near East, the 
Jesuit conspirators will manoeuvre France into attacking Germany. 
France may suffer a fresh defeat and be reduced to the status of 
Poland. In that case the Catholic Church, which "used to whore it 
with the mighty of the earth," will turn to the common F)eople. The 
Pope will appear before them "barefoot, poor, and naked." He will 
proclaim that Qirist taught communism, he will sanction the use 
of force, and offer to head the revolution of "the fourth 

At this point the crystal ball becomes clouded. Demos will accept 


the Pope's leadership at once. Demos will accept it only when 
wearied by endless carnage. Russia will join Germany in slaying 
the double-headed monster of Catholicism and communism, and 
then the two countries will divide the world between them. But no, 
Russia will hold aloof, and ride out the storm. Oh, Europe will be 
drowned in blood! The nations of the West are ranged against one 
another, each a house divided against itself, each threatened by a 
"Red" revolt — not that Dostoevsky regards the latter eventuality 
as an unmixed evil, since it holds the promise of the destruction of 
the bourgeois civilization he abominates. Russia, on the other hand 
"a mighty world apart," stands united, free from discord, mono- 
lithic (in an unguarded moment the diarist blurts out, howeyer, that 
the large non-Russian contingent of the population necessitates a 
strong army). No matter what happens, "the future of Europe be- 
longs to Russia." 

Before undertaking her great historical mission, Russia has to 
perform a smaller task without delay. As soon as the war has been 
won, she must take possession of Constantinople, and of its hinter- 
land and the Straits. Surely, as the head of Eastern Orthodoxy, she 
has a moral right to the ancient capital of Byzantium. This will 
prevent the little Balkan states from quarrelling over that prize. It 
would be wrong to suspect any less unselfish reasons for such an 
annexation: throughout her history, writes Dostoevsky, Russia has 
been an example of "political disinterestedness." Be that as it may, 
the Diary resounds with the cry: "Constantinople must be ours, 
conquered by us Russians from the Turks, and remain ours for- 
ever." The Moslem population need not be deported or exterminat- 
ed; it can take to peddling soap and dressing-gowns like the Volga 
Tartars. If Orthodoxy is to fulfil its historic destiny with the aid of 
the sword, is it less a denial of Christ than Catholicism? The ques- 
tion apparently never occurred to Dostoevsky. 

As a political writer and commentator on current events he cuts 
a sorry figure. But when he abandons all pretence of dealing with 
objective facts and turns a feuilleton into an apocalypse, his utter- 
ances take on a fragile kind of validity. The peculiar tension that 
belongs to his fictions dominates his view of history as well. A sense 
of drama, of catastrophe, of the imminence of great and terrible 
events, haunts these pages. "The present century, it seems to me," 


he writes, **will end in Old Europe with something colossal, that 
is, with something not exactly like the upheaval with which the 
eighteenth century concluded, but with something equally colossal, 
elemental, and terrible, and also resulting in a change of the face 
of the world, at least in the western part of old Europe." But, as 
in the novels, he holds out the promise of redemption. Russia will 
be the Messiah of the nations. 


Now and then the novelist peers out of the pages of this Diary. 
He builds up a situation, he sketches in a group of characters, with 
no more to go by than a reported casual encounter on the street. 
At least two complete stories detach themselves from the matrix 
of his general discourse. The first of these allows the reader to 
catch the novelist in the very act of taking hold of his subject. One 
sees here how an external impulse sets his imagination moving 
along a familiar path. In the issue for October, 1876, he quotes a 
newspaper notice about a poor seamstress who committed suicide 
by throwing herself from a window, an icon clasped in her arms; 
and he remarks that the thought of this gentle soul "involuntarily 
torments the mind." The following issue is devoted to a story, 
"A Gentle Soul," which ends with a woman leaping to her death, an 
icon clasped in her arms. 

In form the story resembles "Notes from the Underground." 
Indeed, the middle-aged pawnbroker who is the monologist here 
is another denizen of the underground who has harboured a sense 
of humiliation and injury ever since a single cowardly act had result- 
ed in his discharge from his regiment and subsequent ostracism. 
Attracted by a destitute sixteen-year-old girl who brings her poor 
trinkets to his shop, he saves her from the unwanted attentions of a 
fat grocer by marrying her. He does not quite conceal from her his 
conviction that he has thus put her in his debt. He loves her, but 
when she offers him affection, he does not respond. Secretly he 
cherishes the thought, if half disbelieving it, that, though outwardly 
a heartless money-grubber, he is actually a proud, noble soul, 
wronged and misjudged. He plans to have his young wife discover 
the truth by herself in the hope that she will then admire and adore 
him. Meanwhile, he perversely continues to put barriers between 


them by studied coldness and niggardliness. She rebels against him, 
indeed comes to loathe him and is even ready to attempt his life. 
But his unexpected courage, when he faces her revolver, paralyses her 
hand and ends her revolt. His affection for her is now complicated 
by pity for her in her defeat and pleasure in her humiliation. 
Believing himself rehabilitated in her eyes and basking self-com- 
placently in his triumph, he is content to delay reconciliation until 
she returns to him of her own accord. Yet a trifling incident throws 
him at her feet in a gust of rapturous tenderness. He opens his heart 
to her, and she promises to be a faithful wife to him. But while 
he is out getting passports for their projected trip abroad, she 
destroys herself. "Why did she die?" the bereaved man keeps ask- 
ing. There is a large element of uncertainty in the situation, as in 
many situations of Dostoevsky's fashioning. What is least in doubt 
is the undergroundling's tragic fault in committing a crime against 
love: possessed by a perverse pride and a thirst for domination, he 
had played havoc with his bride's affection and delayed too long 
the gift of his own. 

"The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" is the title of the other 
story inserted in the Diary. The "Ridiculous Man^' is a solitary 
who might have stepped out of Dostoevsky's early writings. The 
misery of knowing that he cuts an absurd figure is overlaid by a 
conviction that nothing matters, has ever mattered, will ever matter, 
since the world has no objective existence outside of his conscious- 
ness. He decides to kill himself. 

On the night that he has chosen for the act he is accosted in the 
street by a panic-stricken little girl begging for help. He repulses 
her brutally: pity has no meaning in a world which is only illusory 
and which will vanish anyhow in two hours when he has shot him- 
self. But he finds that he does pity the child and is ashamed of 
the way he has treated her. Something does matter. His solipsistic 
obsession is dispelled: his is not the only self that exists. Somehow 
the incident with the little girl has restored him to a sense of the 
reality of the world. Instead of blowing out his brains, he falls 
asleep in his room and has a dream. 

He dreams that he dies, and thereafter is carried through space 
to a replica of our earth. As he approaches it, he is pierced by a 
longing for that other earth he had left behind and a jealous fear 


that he may forget it. "Is there torment upon this new earth?" he 
asks himself. "On our earth we can only truly love with torment 
and through torment. ... I want torment in order to love. I long, 
I thirst, this very instant, to kiss with tears alone the earth that 
I have left, and I don't want, I won't accept life on any other." 
Landing, he finds himself in the midst of an Eden, on an island 
of the blessed, where the lapping of the emerald waves, the rustle 
of the young leaves, the flutter of birds' wings, all seem syllables 
of love. The men and women who people this paradise are like our 
first parents before the Fall. They are radiant with beauty and 
serenity, innocent of pain and evil alike, and free of desires. They 
are without knowledge, but they possess wisdom, and there is a 
living bond between them and the universe. They love, but know 
neither lust nor jealousy, nothing of the cruel sensuality that is 
common to all men on earth. They bear children, who are the 
children of all, since they are one family. They are spared heavy 
toil and illness, and death is euthanasia. Here is an elaboration of 
the dream of the Golden Age that Dostoevsky had given to Stav- 
rogin and later bestowed upon Versilov — a rather jejune Eden, 
almost recalling the sunny Chautauqua scene from which William 
James longed to flee to an Armenian massacre for "an agreeable 

The stranger tells the denizens of this blissful planet that he 
has had a presentiment of their beatitude, and wonders how it is 
that on earth he could not hate men without loving them, or love 
them without hating them. And then, carrying about with him 
as he does the earthly contagion, he corrupts this innocent world. 
These radiant beings come to know shame and sorrow and exalt 
them both. They break up into separate groups, each waving its 
own flag. Men come forward with a scheme — the hint at socialism 
is too broad to be missed — for bringing people together again, 
"so that each, without ceasing to love himself best, at the same 
time might not interfere with others, and all might live together 
in something like a harmonious society." Wars are fought in the 
name of this idea. Crime and suicide flourish. The man from 
earth walks among these people then, wringing his hands and 
weeping, but loving them more than in the old days when they 
were still blameless and beautiful and ignorant of pain — yes, and 

A W RIT E R' S DI A RY 347 

loving the land they have polluted more that he had loved it in its 
purity. In his remorse, he seeks crucifixion at their hands, but they 
laugh at him for a madman, as he had been laughed at on earth. 
Intolerable grief seizes him, and he awakes. 

Few of Dostoevsky's writings reveal so unambiguously the anat- 
omy of his feeling about life. The very fact that the moral he tacks 
on to it should be such a complete non seqidtur is a further revela- 
tion. The dream, he tells us in conclusion, has saved the would-be 
suicide from carrying out his intention. It has given life significance 
by showing him that evil is not the normal condition of man- 
kind, and that happiness is possible on earth. The only requisite 
is that men should love one another as themselves. Dostoevsky 
had asserted that he would stand with Christ against truth. Here 
he stands with Christ against the true meaning of his story. It be- 
speaks an attachment to the earthly, with all its shame and pain, 
beyond any devotion to the crystalline beatitudes of heaven. 

The two stories have the theme of suicide in common. Repeat- 
edly in the Diary he returns to this subject, which is a constant 
element in the pattern of his novels. He accounts for the suicide 
epidemic that he believed he saw around him, as he accounts for 
the spiritual breakdown of so many of his characters, by the want 
of a belief in the immortality of the soul. His argument for it is 
bare-faced pragmatism. The absence of this belief robs life of its 
meaning, makes it indeed "unnatural, unthinkable, and intolerable." 
In The Possessed the young Verkhovensky tells of how "a grizzled 
old stager of a captain," after hearing some young men make short 
shrift of religion, stood up and said: "If there's no God, how can 
I be a captain then?" He might as well have said: "If my soul is 
not immortal, how can I be a captain then?" To Dostoevsky these 
two elements of the religious consciousness are inseparable, indeed, 
identical, and are, moreover, the basis upon which alone the life of 
mankind can be maintained. Except in the service of some higher 
principle, every effort loses its meaning. The idea of immortality, 
he asserts in the Diary, is the highest on earth, and the source of 
every good, even of the love of humanity. One can offer small com- 
fort to a man if his life is a brief and miserable interval between 
two oblivions. Unable to help one's neighbour, one hates him. 
Was the need satisfied by the belief in the immortality of the soul 


related to that morbid fear for the integrity of the self that mani- 
fested itself so clearly in his youth and that he seems never to have 
quite lost? In any event, one can understand why he discredited 
and indeed abominated the agnostic with a conscience and a pur- 
poseful life: the very existence of such people was a denial of the 
faith he professed. 

It was no vague disembodied survival that he laid claim to. 
He made his position clear in a letter written shortly after he sus- 
pended the Diary. At the end of 1877 he found in his mail an 
anonymous manuscript, accompanied by a note from a friend of 
the author's. He had previously received a communication from 
the same pen, setting forth, in a fashion after his own heart, the 
need for brotherly union, if a true human society was to be real- 
ized. But now he had before him a much more remarkable, indeed 
a startling piece of writing. It has since disappeared, but there is 
evidence that herein the author summoned all to labour for the 
achievement of immortality, not merely the immortality of the 
living but the resurrection of the ancestors who lay in their gi'aves — 
this, rather than procreation, being, in his opinion, humanity's 
supreme task. 

Dostoevsky pondered this manuscript and showed it to Vladimir 
Solovyov. Since his young friend's return from a long stay abroad, 
where he had been studying the mystics and having visions, an 
intimacy had sprung up between him and Dostoevsky. Neither 
of them smiled at the mad project; on the contrary, they received 
it with enthusiasm. And when, in March, 1878, Dostoevsky ac- 
knowledged the receipt of the manuscript, he wrote: "At bottom, 
I am completely in accord with these thoughts. I read them as 
though they were my own." He went on to say that the essential 
point in the essay was "the duty of resurrecting the ancestors who 
lived before us, a duty which, if fulfilled, would put a stop to 
childbirth." But, he asked his correspondent, was this raising of 
the dead to be taken in an allegorical and ideal sense, or literally 
— was it to be, as religion asserts, resurrection of the body? Pursu- 
ing the subject with a kind of theological earnestness, he suggested 
that it would of course have to be a different kind of body, perhaps 
resembling the body of Christ in the state in which it was between 



the resurrection and the ascension. He concluded: *'I tell you now 
forthwith that we, at least Solovyov and I, believe in real, Hteral, 
individual resurrection, and that it will take place on earth." 

The question Dostoevsky put to his correspondent did not go 
unanswered. Some time later the author of the curious manuscript 
sent him a fuller statement of his position. He made clear that 
what he believed in was "a material, visible, palpable" resurrec- 
tion, to be achieved by the common effort of mankind, without 
any miraculous intervention, through control of the forces of na- 
ture. Much in this essay was congenial to Dostoevsky's way of 
thinking. It was the expression of a selfless soul, who felt acutely 
that each was responsible for all, who desired men to live neither 
for themselves nor for others, but with all. 

It is not known whether Dostoevsky ever received this third 
communication and, indeed, whether he ever learned the identity 
of the man who had conceived this plan — which might have orig- 
inated with a character in The Possessed — of reversing the life 
process and, through united filial effort, bringing all the departed 
into the world of the living again. Believing that any thought or 
feeling which contained an element of truth was not an individual 
possession, the author of these manuscripts left them anonymous 
and had others to sign his letters. His name was Nikolay Fyodorov, 
and he was an obscure library assistant in Moscow, known to a 
limited circle for his prodigious learning, his complete self-efface- 
ment, and the originality of his thinking. It was only after his death, 
in 1903, that his followers published his writings. These unique 
documents reveal a mind that was a grotesque cross between that 
of an early Christian heresiarch and that of a thoroughgoing mater- 
ialist. Whatever Dostoevsky saw of them was calculated to attract 
him. Yet if at one time he subscribed to Fyodorov's fundamental 
thesis, he did not take seriously the duty of resurrection. Apparently 
he was content with the Orthodox view which holds that it is not 
to be won by human effort, but lies in the gift of God. Like every 
imaginative writer, I>ostoevsky had his own way of conferring 
immortality on men and women, but certainly he did not raise them 
in incorruption. It may be recalled that in the one story in which he 
dealt with life after death, he depicted with macabre humour a 
posthumous salacity. 



D. H. Lawrence said of Dostoevsky that while "professing love, 
all love/' his nose was "sharp with hate" and his running 
"shadowy and ratlike." This is an apt description of the man re- 
vealed at his worst in the Diary. The very writing is so often evasive, 
slippery, unctuous, snarling. On the one hand he exhibits a violent 
animosity against the peoples of the West, the Catholics, the Poles, 
the Jews, the Socialists; on the other, he preaches reconciliation, 
brotherly love, universal union, in the name of Christ. It is plain 
that these views, as indeed all his opinions, were not a matter of 
intellection but of feeling — they were rooted in his personality. His 
nature was too complex to fall wholly within a simple formula, yet 
the analysis of the epileptic make-up in medical literature throws 
some light upon the paradox of his thinking. 

The "epileptic character" is marked by irritability, fits of anger, 
a large capacity for hatred — all the earmarks of an aggressive, de- 
structive disposition. If the epileptic's criminal impulses are in- 
hibited, he overcompensates for them by an attitude of "clammy, 
saccharine kindliness and solicitude," as one psychiatrist puts it. His 
oppressive sense of guilt and the consequent desire for atonement 
express themselves in an emphatic religiosity. This is a well-recog- 
nized feature of the epileptic temperament and, as the same auth.or 
suggests, gives a new meaning to the ancients' term for the falling 
sickness: "the sacred disease." The zealot is bent upon spreading 
the faith. He considers it his mission to bring peace and harmony 
and to root out evil. He is unaware that the source of the evil is 
witliin himself. It is probable that a psychological mechanism such 
as this was partly responsible for Dostoevsky's violent prejudices, 
for the sadistic strain in his novels which won him the reputation of 
a "cruel genius," for his religious bias, and for the Messianic zeal 
which was his and which he attributed to his race. 

In Strakhov's letter to Tolstoy, which has already been quoted, 
he drew a portrait of Dostoevsky that is of particular interest in this 
connection. "I cannot," he wrote, "consider Dostoevsky either a 
good or a happy man (which is in substance the same thing). He 
was malicious, envious, dissolute, and he spent his whole life in 

A W RIT ER' S Df A RY 351 

a state of agitation which was pitiable and which would have made 
him ridiculous, if he had not at the same time been so malicious 
and so intelligent. For his own part, he considered himself, as 
Rousseau did, the best of men, and the happiest. ... In Switzerland 
in my presence he ordered a waiter about in such a way that the 
man took offence and spoke up: 'But surely I am a human being, 
too!' " Strakhov went on to say that such scenes occurred continu- 
ally because Dostoevsky could not restrain his malice, and that 
his spiteful outbursts were marked by a womanish suddenness and 
obliquity; further, that he himself readily took offence, indeed 
rather enjoyed insults, and never fully repented his own nastiness. 
After remarking that Dostoevsky, "possessed of a bestial sensual- 
ity, had no taste whatever, no feeling for womanly beauty and 
charm,'* Strakhov observed: "The characters most resembling him 
are the hero of Notes from the Underground, Svidrigailov in Crime 
and Punishment, and Stavrogin in The Possessed." 

"With such a make-up," Strakhov wrote, "he was at the same 
time very much inclined to a sweet sentimentality, to lofty and 
humane reveries, and these reveries are his particular tendency, his 
literary muse, his road." He could not recall, he said, "a single 
impulse of true kindness, a spark of genuine, cordial warmth, even 
a single moment of real repentance" on the part of Dostoevsky. 
Had he been able to do so, he could have forgiven him all his faults. 
"But merely putting oneself on a pedestal as a fine man, mere 
cerebral and literary humanitarianism — God, how disgusting it is! 
He was a truly unhappy and wicked man who imagined himself 
happy, a hero, and loved tenderly himself alone." 

It is plain that in some respects this damning portrait is not true 
to life. Certainly Dostoevsky did not consider himself either the 
happiest or the noblest of men. He knew himself too well for that. 
Nor was he the monster of selfishness and perversion Strakhov 
paints him. The pages of this biography bear sufficient witness to 
the fact that, on the contrary, he was capable of true kindness, of 
disinterested generosity, of a humility that was not merely in- 
verted self-vaunting. Marfa Brown, that piece of human flotsam, 
felt ennobled by her contact with him. Strakhov distorted the likeness 
by over-simplifying it and exaggerating its uglier aspects. Roughly 
speaking, however, his interpretation of his friend's nature is in 


agreement with the pattern of the epileptic character. But whether 
or not those "lofty and humane reveries" were, in the language of 
the school, a reaction-formation, their suspect origin cannot invali- 
date their worth, since they were, as Strakhov rightly said, his 
"muse," and dictated some of the finest passages in his novels. It 
is noteworthy that it was not only the vicious Smerdyakov whom 
Dostoevsky made an epileptic, but also the Christlike Prince Mysh- 
kin, suggesting in a shadowy way that the epileptic in him had a 
share in both. 

Tolstoy, saying in his reply to Strakhov that Dostoevsky was 
"all conflict," that he was caught in "a struggle between good and 
evil," came nearer than the philosopher to an understanding of the 
law of Dostoevsky's being and, also, of his art. He was a hater; he 
felt himself to be a sinner, a guilty man. And so he strained after 
love, atonement, communion. In his effort at self -integration, he 
sought to impress himself upon the world, to fulfil his religious 
mission, to purify, to unite the hearts of men. 



FROM the first the Writer s Diary found a sizeable audience and 
was something of a financial success. Some months the edition 
would run to as many as six thousand copies. Not a few people 
relished the personal note and the informal manner of the journal, 
and the author's obvious sincerity, even if they were irritated by his 
intellectual confusion. In spite of his retrograde opinions, there 
was an eager restlessness about him that was apt to disarm his an- 
tagonists. He had vaguely hoped to secure a following which might 
make itself felt in public affairs, and indeed the expressions of 
sympathy he received from his readers made him feel that numbers 
of his compatriots shared his point of view. But he succeeded chiefly 
in attracting feeble souls, many of them women, who confided in 
him, who looked up to him as their oracle or their mentor, and who 
heaped his desk with pleas for suggestions as to their reading, for 
advice on the choice of a career, and requests for spiritual aid and 

He replied whole-heartedly, if at all. Sometimes he forgot 
whether he had answered or not — his memory was so wretched 
that he could not remember the faces of people whom he had met, 
or recall the plots of his own novels. Besides, he had a great dis- 
taste for letter writing. *'If I ever go to hell," he told one corres- 
pondent, ''the punishment imposed on me for my sins will be to 
write ten letters a day." Yet, as far as time and memory allowed, 
he did his duty and, indeed, showed a warm interest in the prob- 
lems presented to him. He explained, he counselled, he soothed, he 
warned. He advised at least two young women in affairs of the heart, 
saying: "If you don't love him, don't marry him." He reassured and 
encouraged a despairing schoolgirl who had failed to pass her ex- 
aminations. To a young man with literary ambitions he wrote that 
there was no reason why he should not, at least temporarily, take 



up some practical occupation. In his own youth, he said, although 
he knew that he was destined to be a man of letters, not an engin- 
eer, he had been among the first at the engineering school, and for 
a time had practised the profession for which he had been trained 
He bade the fond mother of an eight-year-old boy teach him the 
Gospels, because "you can't find anything better than Christ," and 
surprisingly enjoined her to retain a sense of measure in her love 
for the child, lest she spoil their relations. The role of father con- 
fessor could not have been wholly disagreeable to him, yet there 
were times when he realized the absurdity of liis position. In such 
a moment he wrote to a stranger who had invited his assistance: 
"You believe that I am the kind of person who sustains hearts, 
releases souls, banishes sorrow. Many write me in this strain, but 
I know for a certainty that I am rather apt to instill disillusion and 
disgust. I am not skilful at lulling to sleep, although sometimes I have 
tried to do it. And, of course, what many people want is to be lulled 
to sleep." 

In the summer of 1877 Dostoevsky was under the impression 
that the Diary was going downhill. In any case, he decided to sus- 
pend it the following year. He might later on issue a larger publica- 
tion, of which it would form only a department. But now he must 
give it up. He was tired, he was ill, he wanted to start work on his 

Part of the December issue, which was the last one, he devoted 
to a friendly estimate of Nekrasov, who, after horrible suiferin<.^s, 
had recently died. The event had touched Dostoevsky more than 
he would have believed. The two had long been in opposite camps, 
but since the publication of A Raw Youth in Nekrasov's review 
their relations had been friendly, and the man's cruel illness had 
drawn Dostoevsky closer to him. Upon learning of his death, he 
spent the night pouring over his poems. He was confirmed in his 
feeling that they were the work of a man who had sustained a deep 
wound in his early life, who had sinned privately against the ideals 
that he upheld publicly, but who had redeemed himself through 
suffering, a man who exemplified the moral duality and turbulence 
of the Russian nature — in fine, a man like a character in a Dostoev- 
sky novel. And as he read, not only what Nekrasov had told him of 
his personal history, but the points at which he had touched his own 


life, came vividly before him, chiefly, of course, that dawn hour, 
now thirty-two years behind him, when Nekrasov had burst in upon 
him, proclaiming him a genius. 

He went with Anna to the funeral — Nekrasov was buried in the 
section of the Volkov Cemetery reserved for men of letters, and 
as they stood there he begged Anna not to have him laid to rest 
here, among his enemies. To give the talk a lighter tone, she de- 
scribed in detail the magnificent funeral she would give him pro- 
vided he promised to delay the occasion as long as possible. Years 
later she was to adduce as an instance of her gift of second sight 
the fact that the ceremony, as she had then pictured it, closely re- 
sembled her husband's actual funeral. 

He might occasionally think and speak of death, but he intended 
to hold on a good while yet. On Christmas Eve he made the follow- 
ing entry in his notebook: 

"Memento. For Whole Life. 
"1. To write a Russian Candide. 

2. To write a book about Jesus Christ. 

3. To write my reminiscences. 

4. To write Commemoration of the Dead, an epic. 

"(All this, in addition to the last novel, and the proposed edition 
of the Diary — that is, minimum ten years' work, and I am now 

There is every reason to believe that by the "last novel" Dosto- 
evsky meant the work for the sake of which he was suspending the 
Diary — The Brothers Karamazov. 


The plot of Dostoevsky's last novel, at least in its essentials, seems 
to have presented itself to his mind complete from the start, and he 
was spared the distress of having to revise and recast it. He made 
occasional jottings for the novel in his notebook while he was still 
issuing the Diary, and when, at the beginning of 1878, he suspended 
it, he set to work in earnest on The Brothers Karamazov. 

In the spring his labours were interrupted by a tragic event. Little 


Alyosha died suddenly of a seizure, and Dostoevsky believed that 
the fatal malady was epilepsy, which he had passed on to the poor 
baby. Heaven could not have punished him more terribly. This 
was evidently the great sorrow prophesied to him by the fortune- 
teller he had consulted the previous winter. It was not like the death 
of their first-born, when they had been alone in a strange land, 
without other children to comfort them. But nothing could make 
the loss easier. He spent the night praying beside the crib where the 
little body lay, and a friend coming in the morning found the parents 
so helpless with grief that she had to attend to the details of the 
funeral for them. 

To divert her husband, Anna persuaded him to go on the trip 
he had so long wished to make to Optina Pustyn, a venerated 
monastery, famous for the wisdom and loving-kindness of its elders, 
particularly Father Amvrosy. Dostoevsky went first to Moscow, 
in some trepidation, to see if Katkov would buy his yet unwritten 
novel. If the publisher refused, he was determined to go on with it 
anyway, but what would they live on meanwhile? Katkov, how- 
ever, was agreeable and promised a sizeable advance. 

From Moscow he went on to the monastery, in the company of 
Solovyov. It was Anna who had arranged this, believing that for 
all his otherworldliness, the eccentric young philosopher would be 
able to take care of her husband in the event of an epileptic attack. 
In spite of the difference in their ages and temperaments, Dostoev- 
sky found Solovyov's company extremely congenial. This young 
man of twenty-five, the author of several philosophical treatises, 
had already reached conclusions similar to his own on such matters 
as the state of the West, the mission of Russia, the moral maxim- 
alism of Christianity, the nature of socialism. This last Solovyov 
condemned as the ultimate expression of the bourgeois spirit, his 
own view being that the Church was the society toward which all 
others should move, since men will not be satisfied with less than 
perfection. This carefree mystic had, moreover, a gift for formula- 
ting and organizing ideas with an easy grace that the novelist may 
well have envied him. Expansive in the company of those he loved, 
Dostoevsky must have talked freely on his favourite themes to the 
young man. Solovyov recalled that on one occasion he spoke of 
*'the woman arrayed with the sun" who is mentioned in Revelation, 


and of her crying out "in pain to be delivered" of a man-child, 
declaring that the woman was Russia, and the child, the message 
she carried for the world. It was also to Solovyov that he confided 
the main theme and the plan of The Brothers Karamazov. 

Theirs was not the traditional leisurely pilgrimage on foot, with 
halts by the wayside and nights under the stars. They made the 
long journey by train and carriage, cruelly jolted about and sleep- 
ing in wretched peasant huts. It was only on the third day that 
Dostoevsky saw the white walls and blue cupolas of the monastery 
against the background of pine forest. He did not spend more than 
two days there. He had gone, as any simple person might go, in 
bereavement, to seek religious solace. But he went more particularly 
as a novelist in search of local colour, his memories of pilgrimages 
made in childhood with his mother being insuflficient for his purpose. 
What he saw at Optina Pustyn he used in the monastery scenes of 
his novel. Indeed, the consolation that was offered him by Father 
Amvrosy he put into the mouth of staretz ("elder") Zosima, in the 
touching passage of The Brothers Karamazov in which he comforts 
the peasant woman for the loss of her child. The pitiful words of the 
woman herself echoed Anna's when her baby died. Dostoevsky 's 
art had for him a kind of religious significance, so that he could 
turn every part of his experience, no matter how private, how 
sacred, to its uses, without any sense of immodesty or profanation. 
When Tolstoy underwent conversion, he rejected his art as be- 
longing to that sinful life from which he had turned away. For 
Dostoevsky there was no division between his fiction and what 
he had of faith. 

When, his pilgrimage over, he came back to Staraya Russa, where 
the family was summering as usual, he could concentrate on his 
book, The apartment in town holding too many painful memories 
of little Alyosha, in the early autumn there were the distractions in- 
cident to moving into a new flat — this was to be Dostoevsky's last 
home. Nevertheless, by November he had completed the opening 
chapters of the novel. Indeed, the first instalment of The Brothers 
Karamazov was published in the January issue of Russky vestnik 
for 1879, and further instalments continued to appear during the 
subsequent months. 

In order that the novelist might suffer fewer distractions, the 


family went to Staraya Russa that year earlier than was customary 
with them. When they got there the town was buzzing with whis- 
pered comment on the hanging of an officer of the local regiment 
who had been discovered to be a member of a militant revolution- 
ary organization. Executions of terrorists were then rather com- 
mon, occurring on the average about once a month. The previous 
year Dostoevsky had been present at the public trial of Vera Zasu- 
lich, who had fired upon the brutal Governor General of Peters- 
bi'rg, and though he felt that her acquittal was justified, he was afraid 
slie would be made a heroine. If only there were some legal formula 
equivalent to the Scriptural admonition: "Go and sin no more!" 
This kind of Christian anarchism could hardly have been to the 
taste of Pobedonostzev who, upon the assassination of Alexander 
11, wrote to his pupil, the emperor's successor, urging him to show 
no clemency toward the regicides. Dostoevsky's attitude this time, 
to judge by a letter he wrote to his eminent friend, was not so much 
one of horrified indignation as of wonder over the terrorist's stale 
of mind. To the run of loyal citizens, he commented, people of this 
type appear insane, but it must be acknowledged that these lunatics 
have their logic, their moral code, their God; yes, and they believe 
that the whole world will yet come round to their way of thinking. 
Did it occur to Dostoevsky that these "lunatics" might have their 
will with his country? "Sometimes," he wrote to Pobedonostzev a 
few months later, "a silly and sinful thought occurs to me: what will 
become of Russia when we, the last of the Mohicans, die?" 

As was his habit, he worked at night, stimulated by cup after 
cup of strong tea, bitter as beer. What with the back-breaking 
strain under which the novel put him, the trying weather — he wrote 
to the sound of trees crashing in the storm — the serious illness 
of both children, not to mention the distress of watching, even 
from a distance, what he called "the insane antics of the press and 
the intellectuals," by midsummer he felt badly in need of the cure. 
It was to be his last trip to Ems. He found the place more execrable 
than ever. The landscape was ravishing; how he hated every stone 
in it! At the concerts they played nothing but Wagner, "a most 
tedious German blackguard." His loneliness was abysmal; he wrote 
to Anna that for four weeks he hadn't heard his own voice. Prison 
had been better. He didn't know how he stood it without her. After 


twelve years of married life she attracted him more than she had 
as a girl of nineteen. She filled him with an inexhaustible rapture 
which was increasing with the years. The only thing that she lacked, 
for wifely perfection, was frankness. His own outspokenness was 
so complete that she reminded him jestingly that his letters might be 
read by the censor, and in later years, before allowing them to be 
published, with anxious modesty she expurgated the most intimate 
passages. "You will say," he wrote to her, in one of these, which 
stressed the importance of the physical basis of marriage, "that this 
is only one side, and that the grossest. No, it is not gross, and be- 
sides, at bottom, everything else depends on it." 

The anxious father was not lost in the passionate husband. He 
was a prey to nightmares and gloomy thoughts. He kept thinking 
of his death. Men were selfish. The world was a cold place. The 
children! What would become of them when he was gone? Some- 
thing must be laid aside for them, he insisted, as his father had 
before him. He must finish the Karamazovs, establish his reputation 
with it, then resume the Diary, and with money from the sub- 
scriptions buy a place in the country. By the time the children are 
grown, it will have trebled in value, and with a stake in the land 
they will be substantial citizens. Either because it was remotely 
located, or because he had a guilty feeling about retaining it, Dosto- 
evsky took no account of the land that represented his share in 
the Kumanina estate. 

Meanwhile, he was not saving; on the contrary, he was spend- 
ing money. His letters bristle with the figures of his outlays. He 
drops the glass he used at the spring; it costs him five marks, and 
he buys another one for four; he sighs over the loss, which he 
sets at nine marks, and besides, it is a bad omen. In spite of the 
demands of the cure, his boredom, and his anxieties, he manages 
to do a little work, about two hours a day, and sends off the section 
devoted to Father Zosima. Good riddance! The old man had been 
sitting on his neck long enough. 

Letters from home are infrequent and are not always reassuring. 
Anna has gone off on a long journey to inspect, at long last, the 
land left by Aunt Kumanina. She has hopes of coming to an agree- 
ment regarding the division of the property with the coheirs, those 
"pickpockets, cheats, and sharpers," as Dostoevsky calls these 


kinsmen. He is worried about the indignities to which Anna will 
be exposed, and the hardships the children, whom she has taken 
with her, will suffer. They will have to stop in a dirty peasant hut 
where they will be starved, and their belongings will be stolen (alas, 
the virtues of the Russian masses on which he harped so much were, 
after all, only potential). He is better pleased with the news that the 
family is planning a visit to a monastery. They must pray for him — 
he is a great sinner. One letter brings word of the death of Emilia 
Fyodorovna. Curious, that on the eve of her passing he had had a 
dream — he had set it down the next day as was his habit — of Mikhail 
bleeding to death. 


Dostoevsky had obligated himself to complete the novel within 
the year 1879. A little more than half the year had gone by when 
he discovered that, as usual, he could not keep his promise. He 
had overestimated his strength, he was writing more slowly than 
he used to, and he was more self-critical. But surely the following 
March would see the publication of the last instalment. When he 
came to write Book Eight, which contains the great scene of revelry 
in the tavern, it grew beyond the bounds he had originally set for 
it and so the delivery of it was delayed. He had intended this book 
to conclude Part Three, but suddenly decided that the novel would 
gain if he added another book to this section. He refused to be 
hurried. Haste would ruin his reputation now and for all time. The 
thing was being read everywhere, by the younger generation, by 
high society. He must do his best. When he finally dispatched the 
additional chapters, he was dizzy with the strain. The winter months 
sped by, and the end was still far off. 

The season held fewer anxieties than usual. Anna and the chil- 
dren were well, and his own health had benefited by the cure at 
Ems. His epileptic attacks were now less frequent, occurring on 
the average about once every three or four months. He believed, 
however, that owing to his enfeebled condition, his resistance to 
them was lessened and the after-effects lasted longer. As he was in 
the habit of taking notes on his more striking dreams, so too he 
would occasionally make jottings on his seizures. Of the next to the 
last one he noted that it occurred with a sharp change in the weather 


and was followed by a state of mind that he described thus: 
"Ragged thoughts, migration into the past, dreaminess, melan- 
choly, feeling of guilt. . . ." 

The family's material circumstances too were less of a worry. 
They had at last paid off the creditors, the novels — they had already 
brought out five of them — were selling steadily, it was no longer 
necessary to beg Katkov for advances. Besides, since the beginning 
of 1880 there had been an additional source of income, however 
modest: the practical-minded Anna had set up as a book-seller on 
a mail-order basis. What with Dostoevsky's increasing age, his fail- 
ing health, and his careless generosity to whoever held out a hand, 
be it a professional panhandler or the equally importunate Pasha, 
Anna felt that she must think of the future. The eight hundred and 
eleven roubles that the business netted her the first year promised 
well. When her husband died, however, she discontinued the enter- 
prise, nor would she sell the good-will of the firm — to attract 
customers, it had been established in Dostoevsky's name — lest the 
new owner bring that name into disrepute. 

Meanwhile, the successive instalments of The Brothers Kara- 
mazov, as they appeared in Russky vestnik, were finding an increas- 
ingly enthusiastic audience and rolling up the novelist's fame. He was 
more and more in demand when a literary evening was to be held 
for the benefit of the Fund for Needy Authors, on which he had 
drawn more than once, or for some similar cause. He read not only 
from his own works but from his favourites among the Russian 
masters — Pushkin, Gogol, Nekrasov. If as a reader he lacked 
Dickens' dramatic quality, he had the power of hypnotizing his 
listeners with his low, cracked voice and passionate delivery, so 
that those who heard him once never forgot the experience. On 
these occasions he was accompanied by Anna, his "faithful squire," 
as he called her. She would bring up the rear, carrying the book, 
the cough lozenges, the extra pocket handkerchief, the plaid in 
which he was to wrap his throat when the reading was over. Her 
presence was a comfort, and he made a practice of starting to read 
only after he had assured himself that she was in the audience. But 
on the other hand, what with so many cavaliers about, kissing his 
wife's hand and paying her polite attentions, his jealousy would 
often get the better of him. 


More than ever was he being Honized by the haut monde. Pobed- 
onostzev, now Procurator of the Most Holy Synod, was as gracious 
as ever. For some time Dostoevsky had had the privilege of a visit 
with him regularly on Saturday evenings after mass, when they 
would have heart-to-heart talks which lasted beyond midnight. He 
gave private readings from his works to aristocratic audiences, and 
was a frequent guest of Countess Tolstoy, the poet's widow, a highly 
cultivated lady. He presented his novels to the Heir Apparent 
with expressions of ardent devotion to his person, and on Dec- 
ember 16, 1880, was received by the future Alexander III and the 
Grand Duchess, who a week later attended one of his readings. He 
also became acquainted with the Tsar's nephew Constantine, the 
only Romanov to attain some prominence as a man of letters. The 
Grand Duke was most gracious to Dostoevsky and introduced him 
to other members of the imperial family. 

It is said that in the drawing-room of Countess Mengden he was 
presented to the Emperor himself, an honour rarely conferred upon 
a writer. Dostoevsky was somewhat taken aback to discover that the 
handsome man dyed his side whiskers (he was about to contract 
a morganatic marriage with the beautiful Princess Yuryevsky, nearly 
half his age, who had been his mistress for years and had borne 
him three children). It was a further disappointment to the author 
to learn that the Tsar had read few of his works and to find that 
when the conversation touched on freedom of conscience it was 
gently but firmly directed into other channels. Apparently at Pobed- 
onostzev's suggestion, the Tsar instructed the tutor of his two 
younger sons to arrange for his charges several meetings with the 
novelist. It was hoped that contact with this passionate defender 
of Church and throne would exert a beneficent effect upon them. 
One of the Grand Dukes was to die by the hand of a revolutionary 
in the stormy days of 1905. 

One may find an explanation of Dostoevsky's popularity with the 
aristocracy in the state of public affairs at this time. The war from 
which he had hoped so much had ended in a diplomatic defeat, and 
therewith seriously shaken the prestige of the government at home. 
The political climate favoured the growth of the revolutionary 
movement. This had now taken a new turn. The attempt, made in 
the middle seventies, to propagandize the peasants peacefully had 


failed, and so too had the effort to rouse the masses to armed in- 
surrection. Accordingly, terrorist tactics were adopted, first in re- 
taliation for police brutality, then as a means of frightening the 
government into concessions and so demoralizing it as to enable 
the revolutionists to seize control. 

The two years of shootings and dynamitings were beginning to 
have their effect. In high places there was the feeling that the gov- 
ernment was being besieged. At the reception held in the Winter 
Palace on February 19, 1880, to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniver- 
sary of Alexander IPs reign, the Tsar looked to a French diplomat 
like "a ghost," while the old chancellor. Prince Gorchakov, gave 
the impression of a mummy taken out for an airing. "I'm done for, 
I'm done for," he kept muttering, as he leaned against a column 
so as not to fall. "We are disturbed by the spectacle of these 
ruins . . in this palace that trembles," the diplomat wrote in his 
diary. Society in the capital was panic-stricken. To the numbers of 
gentlemen and ladies who were frightened by the threat of violent 
revolution Dostoevsky's doctrine of mystic nationalism was a grate- 
ful one, and his enthusiastic monarchism a moral support. It was 
only natural that Pobedonostzev should hold the novelist to be a 
man who, as he wrote to a friend, "fitted the times" and was in- 
deed "irreplaceable." 

Did the distinctions and glories heaped upon Dostoevsky remind 
him of those early social triumphs that he had retailed in his letters 
to Mikhail with such breathless zest? He was not as thrilled by it 
all now, and more self-assured, but even his less highly stationed 
hostesses recognized that he was not quite at ease in the drawing- 
room, that he belonged unmistakably to the lower middleclass 
and though not vulgar was quite without taste. While his ofl?icial 
rank was that of a dvoryanin (noble), he had the manners, the habits, 
the standard of living of an intellectual proletarian lacking 
elementary financial security and used to indignities and humilia- 

One could not be sure of his mood. Sometimes he was reserved 
and conventional, and only the perspicacious discerned that this was 
a mask. Again, he might march in sullen and unapproachable, look- 
ing as if he expected momentarily to be insulted. He would retire 
to a corner, eyeing every newcomer suspiciously and simmering with 


malice — the crotchety, subtle old man. Only the place and the com- 
pany would restrain him from making himself unpleasant, and so 
he would sit, his head drooping, his look withdrawn, his lower lip 
in a pout, and not brighten up until he had managed to instill a 
drop of poison into a remark. One young woman, meeting him for 
the first time, at an evening party, saw "a greyish face, a thin, grey- 
ish beard, a distrustful, frightened look, and shoulders hunched as 
though with chill. ... He looked shrunken together, meek and 
guilty." She saw him for the last time in the Marquesa Paulucci*s 
ballroom, seeming somewhat out of place at the brilliant gathering 
in his ill-fitting frock coat and looking as though his thoughts were 

Occasionally, if his hostess coaxed him suflficiently, he would 
consent to give a reading, and then the sickly-looking, sunken- 
chested man with the whispering voice would seem to take on 
stature and presence and would throw the guests into "a kind of 
moral rapture." Sometimes he would unbend to speak freely on 
his favourite topics. Thus to the Vicomte de Vogue, a member of 
the French diplomatic corps, who was married to a Russian lady, 
he expatiated on the superiority of the Russian race, giving his 
listener the impression of a cross between a bear and a porcupine. 
Again, the viscount heard him vaticinate about the end of European 
civilization in the accents of a Daniel. The writing, Dostoevsky pro- 
claimed would appear on the wall of the Cafe Anglais, Paris would 
go down in all her pride, and the old world would meet its doom. 

The viscount pictures the novelist as a small, dry man, bent and 
worn by sixty bad years, "faded rather than old, having the ageless 
look of the sick, with his long beard and blond hair, and in spite 
of everything, possessing that catlike vitality of which he spoke 
one day." To the Frenchman, Dostoevsky's features had the stamp 
of the Russian peasant: the broad nose, the small eyes blinking 
under the arches of his brows, the forehead with its bulges and 
furrows. He noted also the temples, hollowed as though beaten in 
by a hammer, the mouth of a sufferer, and the convulsive twitches 
of the whole face. "Everything in this man was of the common 
people, and there was in him an inexpressible mingling of grossness, 
subtlety, and gentleness . . . and something disturbing, perhaps 
the concentration of thought on this proletarian mask." 



In order to escape from dinners, soir6es, and concerts, from 
society women looking for spiritual solace and young people in 
search of advice, Dostoevsky again left for Staraya Russa early in 
the season, but he was not to get as clear a space for work on the 
novel as he had hoped. Late in May he found himself in Moscow, 
having been delegated by the Slavic Charitable Society, a highly 
respectable body, to attend the ceremonies connected with the un- 
veiling of a statue of Pushkin on Strastnaya (now Pushkin) 
Square. Forthwith a dinner was given in his honour, on a scale in 
accordance with the city's traditions of hospitality. What impressed 
him most about the affair was that **its refinement reached a point 
where, after the coffee and liqueurs, two hundred magnificent and 
expensive cigars were passed around.** 

As the proceedings were delayed by the death of the empress, 
Dostoevsky spoke of returning home: he was worried about Anna 
and the children; he had to complete the next instalment of his 
novel. His Moscow friends would not hear of it: they would send 
a delegation to his wife to beg her to allow him to remain; they 
would send a delegation to Katkov to request an extension of time. 
He stayed on, but he was in distress: he was homesick, and fretted 
by a dozen petty matters. There were his expenses. True, they were 
not likely to be heavy, since the municipality paid for his room and 
board, but that was embarrassing: he felt constrained to eat outside 
of the hotel so as to reduce the bill that would be presented to the 
Duma — they mustn't think he was a hog. It was bad enough that 
before he learned of the arrangement he had ordered stamps freely 
and had sent back the coffee, complaining that it was too weak. 
There was one outlay that especially weighed upon him — the wreath 
he would have to place on the statue: it would come to fifty roubles 
(in the end it was only fourteen). And then suppose it should rain 
on the day of the unveiling, and he were to catch cold and cough 
in the middle of his speech. That speech! He had already half prom- 
ised it to two different publications. He slept badly and had con- 
tinual nightmares about Anna being unfaithful to him. And all the 
time he was thinking: my book, my book! He took comfort in a visit 


to some high Church dignitaries who told him that they counted 
themselves among his readers and were honoured by his visit. *'So 
they value a man," he wrote to Anna, "who stands up for God." 
What was keeping him in Moscow above all was the feeling that he 
must fight for his cause. The issue between the Slavophils and the 
Westerners would be drawn at the celebration; he couldn't run 
away from the battlefield. 

At last the great day was upon him. He was afraid of it. He would 
have to be on his feet from early morning until late at night, and 
only then, worn out by the exercises, heavy with the food and drink 
of the banquet at the Duma, he would have to give a reading from 
Pushkin that demanded particular poise and mastery. Meanwhile 
the split in the ranks of the delegates had grown more apparent. 
Turgenev heading the liberals. Tolstoy, who was then immersed 
in religious problems, was not even present, having dismissed the 
whole affair as a farce; it was rumoured, as a result, that his mind 
was unbalanced. So Dostoevsky lost his last opportunity of meet- 
ing the man. Only once were they in the same room, the occasion 
being a lecture by Solovyov. But Tolstoy had stipulated on setting 
out that there should be no introductions, and his wish was re- 
spected. Thus it was that Dostoevsky never satisfied his desire to 
come face to face with his great contemporary. 

The unveiling went off smoothly, and Dostoevsky's reading in 
the evening was brilliant, but Turgenev got the greater ovation. 
Of course, the man had a claque: students and Westerners. Dosto- 
evsky noted that the people from whom he won his own applause 
were mostly those in the more expensive seats, though there were 
plenty of other people who came up afterwards to shake his hand 
and tell him: "You are our prophet, we are better men since we 
have read the Karamazovs." The next day, at a literary dinner fol- 
lowing the public session of the Society of Lovers of Russian Liter- 
ature, he was confirmed in his opinion that his own followers had 
true enthusiasm, while Turgenev's were mere claqueurs. But he was 
deeply troubled. He was to make his speech the next morning, and 
he was afraid that he would lose even more sleep than usual and 
that he would have an attack. 

He delivered his address on June 8, at the second session of the 
Society, which was held in the high-ceiled eighteenth-century hall 


with its double colonnade, where the nobility gave balls and received 
the imperial family and where, forty-four years later — it was by 
then transformed into the House of the Trade Unions — the body 
of Lenin was to lie in state. 

I>ostoevsky spoke in moved tones, his voice soft, tense, urgent. 
The appearance of Pushkin, he declared, was a prophetic sign, an 
earnest of the fulfilment of his country's high destiny. Pushkin was 
the first to portray the Russian intellectual, dreaming of universal 
happiness, but helpless because he had no roots in his own soil; 
and Pushkin was also the first to exalt the purity and moral integ- 
rity of the Russian woman. He had, above all, the peculiarly Rus- 
sian gift of identifying himself utterly with men of alien races and 
cultures; where Shakespeare's Italians were Elizabethan English- 
men, Pushkin could miraculously sink himself into the being of a 
Spaniard, a Serb, a Moslem. His country's genius, to which the 
poet's was so deeply akin, was to understand all, to reconcile all, 
to unite all. To be truly a Russian was to be vsechelovek "a pan- 
human," a brother to all men. Russia might be backward, poverty- 
stricken, ignorant, yet precisely because she was not distracted by 
material wealth, she was gloriously destined to achieve the union 
of mankind in obedience to the law of Christ. 

Dostoevsky's speech came toward the end of three days of oratory 
which, rather than tiring the public, had keyed its nerves to an ex- 
traordinary pitch. It was delivered in a charged atmosphere. It was 
spoken by a man who, for at least some of the audience, wore the 
halo of martyrdom, to whom others looked for moral guidance, and 
in whom all recognized the author of masterly works, especially that 
extraordinary novel, then in course of publication. The Brothers 
Karamazov. There was something in the worn face, in the low, broken 
voice, in the smoldering passion of the utterance, that cast a spell 
upon his listeners. The message, while in essence it offered nothing 
new to those familiar with Dostoevsky's publicist writings, was a 
thrilling one: it stirred generous emotions; it opened glowing vistas 
into the future; it flattered democratic sentiment; it satisfied the 
craving that men have always felt to be assured that they belong to 
the chosen people. 

Small wonder, then, that his speech formed the climax of the 


occasion. *'No, Anya, no," he wrote, *'you can never picture to 
yourself, never imagine, the effect it produced." His words were 
interrupted repeatedly by salvos of applause. When, toward the 
close, he proclaimed the universal union of men, the hall rocked 
with emotion, and when he ceased *'there was a shout, a roar of 
ecstasy"; strangers embraced, men wept, and swore to lead better 
lives. Great ladies, state dignitaries, students, swarmed to the plat- 
form to embrace him. Turgenev, too, kissed him, with tears, and 
said: "You're a genius, more than a genius!" Aksakov, who was 
to have been the next speaker, ascended the platform and declared 
that Dostoevsky's speech was a historic event. Like the sun, it had 
scattered clouds, and henceforth there would be brotherhood and 
good will. The public shouted assent, and men again embraced one 
another, weeping. The sitting was adjourned, and Dostoevsky tried 
to escape into the wings, but he was followed by the throng, above 
all, by the women: "They kissed my hands, they tormented me." 
One student collapsed at his feet. He was himself ready to faint, ex- 
hausted by emotion. Two old men told him that they had been 
enemies for twenty years, but on this day they had composed their 
differences: "You are our saint, our prophet," they said. " 'Prophet! 
Prophet!' people cried in the crowd." Was he at last being accorded 
the role he had essayed time and again? This was a moment such as 
redeems the miseries of a lifetime. 

At last the programme of the morning was resumed. At the end 
of the session over a hundred ladies stormed the platform and 
crowned him with an enormous laurel wreath. Truly, an acrid 
observer remarked, I>ostoevsky, in company with Turgenev, had 
succeeded in usurping the honours intended for Pushkin. In the 
evening the festivities were concluded with more readings from 
Pushkin, and Dostoevsky's part was to recite the lyric, The Prophet, 
a fact which, in view of the acclaim he had received, seemed sud- 
denly providential. Late that evening — it is Anna who tells the 
story — after all the visitors had left, he hired a droshky, drove to the 
site of the monument and, not without some difficulty, lifted the 
enormous wreath he had received, laid it at the feet of the statue, 
and made a low obeisance to the poet. 

The enthusiasm that had greeted his address of the morning. 


though violent, had, not however, been unanimous. There was a 
minority of radically-minded young people whom Dostoevsky had 
antagonized the moment he opened his mouth. They perceived an 
ugly irony in his reference to the Russian "wanderer" — everybody 
knew he meant the socialists — who would not be content with less 
than universal happiness. They were disgusted by his praise of 
Pushkin's Tatyana, who stupidly remained faithful to her aged 
husband instead of following the dictates of her heart. They were 
outraged by his enjoining the intellectual to humble himself, and his 
rhetoric regarding Russia's mission seemed to them not only wrong- 
headed, but dangerous. Turgenev afterwards confessed that Dosto- 
evsky's sentiments were extremely distasteful to him, though at the 
time he too had succumbed to the hypnotic effect of the address, 
and come up to press the speaker's hand, as did several other 
liberals and Westerners. Indeed, what Aksakov had meant when he 
described the speech as "an event" was that it healed the breach 
between the two factions, the Westerners and the Slavophils. Had 
not Dostoevsky made it plain that the true Russian was inevitably 
a good European? The peace proved, however, but a short-lived 
truce. As soon as his burning words appeared in cold print — the 
oration was published in the daily owned by Katkov who, as a notori- 
ous reactionary, had been denied admittance to the exercise by 
the organizing committee — the two camps were at loggerheads 

The liberal press, while sympathizing with Dostoevsky's venera- 
tion for the masses, pointed out the inconsistencies of his position, 
intimated that the same things had been heard before from the 
same source — as a matter of fact, he had expressed them in the 
pages of Vremya twenty years earlier — that in any case there was 
nothing original in national self -vaunting, that Russia's "pan- 
humanism," far from being a mystic virtue, was merely a sign of 
her backwardness and of her natural tendency to appropriate the 
achievements of the other nations, and finally, that the Russian 
people, instead of being capable of leading mankind, stood in urgent 
need of the civilizing influences of Western enlightenment. He was 
deeply wounded by this criticism: why, his opponents were treating 
him as though he were a thief or an embezzler! When, in August, 
he printed his speech in the form of an issue of the Writer's Diary, 


the only one for the year 1880, he supplemented the text with intro- 
ductory remarks and a prolix reply to his critics. 

Herein he reiterated his belief that social betterment depended 
not on reformed institutions, but on the spiritual regeneration of 
the individual; that each nation existed merely to safeguard and 
promote the religion that alone bound its members together; that 
European civilization, based on greed as it was, had nothing to 
offer Russia, which possessed the true Christian enlightenment won 
by centuries of suffering. Why speak of Europe? She was doomed. 
"The final accounting, the payment of the bill," v;as to come sooner 
than people imagined. A fraction of humanity could not exploit 
the rest with impunity much longer. And was not such exploitation 
the very cornerstone of Europe's social system? A final catastrophic 
"political war" was impending. It might break within the next 
decade. The factories and the banks would close and starving mil- 
lions be thrown upon the pavement. "Do you think that proletarians 
will wait patiently, dying of hunger, as they did before?" No, the 
propaganda of socialism, the International, the Paris Commune, 
have changed all that. "They will hurl themselves upon Europe, 
and the entire old order will come to a final crash." Russia would 
be the rock against which those stormy waves would be shattered. 

By the time this issue of the Diary appeared, he believed that as 
far as his progress on the novel was concerned, he was on the last 
lap. There were a thousand interruptions: letters of all descriptions, 
manuscripts that eager unknowns sent to him to place for them, 
student deputations, visits from strangers who threatened to kill 
themselves on the spot if he did not solve their insoluble problems. 
There was no time left to read, to see the children, to live. The night 
hours were the only ones he had for work. Until the day, early in 
November, when he dispatched the final pages, he toiled furiously. 
What he was writing was so original that he expected no praise 
from the critics, but he put his trust in the public. Except for those 
few passages that wrote themselves, it was frightfully hard work, 
so hard that it made him physically ill. Sometimes, after having 
written a chapter on which he had been taking notes for three years, 
he had to discard it and rewrite it altogether. For ten, for twelve 
hours he would sit hunched over his desk, and at six o'clock in the 


morning, when the city was beginning to wake, he had not yet gone 
to bed. And this when the doctors had warned him that he must 
have his night's rest. It was worse than hard labour in Siberia! But 
the whole of literate Russia was waiting for him to put a close to the 
novel; that he should end it fittingly was a debt that he owed to 
himself, to literature, to God. 


ONE OF the most widely known of Dostoevsky's books. The 
Brothers Karamazov is the greatest of them and that which 
most richly repays exploration. Like other major works of 
his, it is a crime novel and has the obvious appeal of a superbly 
managed detective story. But this tale of murder and mystery con- 
tains elements undreamt of in the philosophy of purveyors of thril- 
lers. There is in it not only the conflict that results from the pressure 
of one character upon another; there is also the drama of the mind 
that belongs to the novel of ideas. Without offering that definite 
message that he was always striving to utter, this, among all his 
works, holds the sum of his experience, the substance of his 

Though the design of the novel has the involutions usual with 
Dostoevsky, the main outline of the plot, which revolves around 
the crime of parricide, is fairly simple, and the fact that in the main 
it has to do with one family helps to sustain its unity. Similarly, the 
protagonists, while creatures of flesh and blood, possessing the 
complexity common to his characters, yield their symbolical mean- 
ing more readily than is generally the case. It is the eldest son, 
Dmitry, who holds the centre of the stage most of the time, yet each 
of the Karamazovs is drawn with a firmness, an insight, an imagi- 
native power, that sets them among the most authentic characters 
in fiction. 

The old Karamazov is a small landowner who has risen from the 
position of a clownish hanger-on to that of a shady, and successful, 
entrepreneur. A creature scarcely capable of a moral scruple or an 
impulse of natural affection, he is little more than a bundle of coarse 
appetites, a kind of vicious Falstaff, built upon lust as upon a rock, 
yet with something of a Rabelaisian geniality about him. True, the 
spiteful, shrewd old sot has moments of "spiritual terror," and 



in his cups is not beyond discussing the existence of God and the 
chances of immortality, but this flicker of religious feeling serves 
only to show up more sharply his greedy sensuality. 

The father's carnality has been transmitted to the sons, but in 
a sublimated form. He was married twice, the first time to a spirited, 
pretty, and dowered girl who ran away from him, the second time 
to a poor, meek, long-suffering orphan whom he drove to her grave. 
It is as though the finer substance of these women had purified 
and humanized, in the sons, the man's gross animalism, so that 
the children born of these unions grew souls. At the same time 
they all shared, to a greater or lesser degree, the dark, earthly power 
which was the heritage of the Karamazovs. Dmitry, the first-bom, 
has much of his father in him. He too is a sensualist, a man driven 
by his lusts, knowing no measure, no discipline, no restraint. Yet 
this passionate soul possesses an unreflective moral sense of an 
adolescent acuteness, so that he comes to feel a community of suffer- 
ing and guilt with all mankind. He may do low things, but he pays 
for it by the injury to his sense of honour. He may do cruel things, 
but none has a greater gift of pity than this rough, uneducated, 
impulsive fellow. Though he sinks to the depths of degradation, he 
knows his own baseness; from the filthy pit he reaches out to clutch 
the hem of divinity, and he is capable of rising to the peaks of 
generosity and religious exaltation. He quotes Schiller's Hymn to 
Joy, and it is as though Dostoevsky were introducing him with a 
musical motif, fitting enough because there is a kind of music 
in his heart, a gaiety singing in him, for all his savagery. Grushenka, 
the kept woman who is the object of his fierce desire — the very 
woman after whom his father lusts — is made of simpler stuff than 
Dmitry, but is at bottom his feminine counterpart: a somewhat 
coarse, hot-blooded creature, capable of cruelties and indeed of 
a craftiness altogether foreign to Dmitry, but having also his 
humanity and his largeness of spirit. 

In Ivan, the younger brother, the Karamazov vigour runs along 
another channel. He is not wanting in the zest for living that is his 
inheritance, and he has a more exacting conscience than he knows, 
but he is, above all, intended to be the pattern of the intellectual, 
the doubter, the trafficker in the subtleties of the mind. Not that he 


is a cold rationalist, dealing in airy abstractions. He is a man who 
is anguished by the problems that he fastens upon. It is his tragedy 
to be caught in the trap of sterile dialectics. Like all those characters 
of Dostoevsky's who succumb to the temptations of the intellect, he 
stumbles, he goes astray, he is lost. The handsome, theatrical 
Katerina Ivanovna, with whom he is involved and to whom Dmitry 
is for a time betrothed, is a woman who, as Dostoevsky phrased it, 
''constantly invents herself." She is another twisted, lacerated soul, 
one who suffers by forcing herself to live beyond her spiritual means 
and, without realizing it, is in love only with what she believes to be 
her own moral excellence. 

If Dmitry comprehends the life of the senses, and Ivan that of 
intellect, Alyosha, the youngest, embodies the life of the spirit. 
Although he is a novice at the local monastery, he is no wan mystic, 
but a smiling youth whose red cheeks and sturdy frame consort ill 
with his cassock, one who has in him, too, the dark Karamazov 
strain and knows his moment of racking doubt. It is not without sig- 
nificance that the girl, Lise, whom he eventually intends to marry 
(he has been bidden by his religious superior to leave the monastery 
for the world) is a hysterical, sensual child, with perverse caprices 
and an equally perverse charm. During a conversation in which she 
parades her abnormal impulses before him, he drops the remark 
that there are moments when everyone loves crime; and when she 
observes that everyone secretly relishes Dmitry's having killed his 
father, Alyosha acknowledges that there is truth in what she says. 
But if the boy inherits something from his father in the flesh, he 
shares with his spiritual father, the "elder" Zosima, the gift of 
mystic ecstasy, of unstinted love. He represents another attempt 
on Dostoevsky's part to portray the Christian; another character 
who approaches Prince Myshkin in simplicity of heart, intuitive 
wisdom, radiant serenity, selfless compassion. Indeed, in the notes 
for the novel, Alyosha is referred to as "the idiot." 

While he was writing the book, Dostoevsky observed in a letter 
that, taken together, "these four characters" epitomized the cul- 
tivated Russian of his day. He might have said that they com- 
prised the complex of appetites, questionings, and aspirations 
that belong to human nature generally. 

There is yet a fourth son — the bastard, Smerdyakov. The drun- 


ken Karamazov begot him upon a half-witted vagrant, not in the 
heat of lust, but cold-bloodedly, deliberately, in the spirit of a 
buffoon playing an obscene practical joke. The offspring of this un- 
natural union is a moral idiot, like his father in his want of con- 
science, of common pieties and human attachments, but, unlike him, 
having no gusto for life; indeed, he is sexless, the only emotion of 
which he is capable being hatred. A flunkey from the crest of his 
pomaded hair to the tip of his polished calf boots, he is loathsome 
as a reptile or a slimy cellar-growth. Significantly, Dostoevsky, 
always ready to besmirch the faculty of reason, gives this dandified 
monster a logical mind and an extraordinary shrewdness. Smerd- 
yakov is a masterly parody of the intellectual, a distorted image, 
as it were, of Ivan, in which his finer features are thrown out of 
focus, his baser ones magnified. 

The background of the novel is crowded with people: peasants, 
schoolboys, merchants, and, in the ample chapters devoted to the 
preliminary investigation and to Dmitry's trial, magistrates and 
lawyers. Through Alyosha, the revered "elder" Zosima is brought 
into the picture, and the life of the monastery becomes part of the 
pattern. That scatter-brained lady, Mme. Khokhlakova, furnishes 
the comic relief, and the divinity student, Rakitin, is another nasty- 
minded, scoundrelly embodiment of Dostoevsky's pet abomination, 
the nihilist. Then, too, there are the miserable Snegirevs, a family of 
poor folk who suffer from Dmitry's violence and are comforted by 
Alyosha's compassion. 

As regards the dramatis personae alone, this is the most com- 
prehensive of Dostoevsky 's novels. Some fifty men, women, and 
children move through its pages. There is more of the furniture of 
ordinary life here than in most of his works, some slight awareness 
of the rhythms of nature, and, at one high moment, the mystic sense 
of man's communion with the universe. As the reader surrenders 
himself to this book, he is caught up into a closed world, which has 
amplitude, solidity, variety. It is a world in which human beings 
live furiously the life of the senses and with equal intensity the life 
of the mind, engaged as they are with issues of the moral and re- 
ligious order — and passionately so engaged. 



Dostoevsky lays the responsibility for the murder of the old 
Karamazov, around which the plot revolves, chiefly upon Ivan and 
Smerdyakov. It is Smerdyakov who actually kills the old man and 
robs him of the three thousand roubles he had put aside to buy 
Grushenka's favours. But it is upon Ivan that the burden of guilt 
lies most heavily. In his moral confusion, he arrogated to himself 
the right to decide who was worthy and who unworthy of life, 
and gave himself license to desire the death of his horrible old 
father. Yet, since he held his wish to be inoperative, it was pos- 
sible for him to believe himself beyond reproach. He desired his 
father's death without willing it, but Smerdyakov, being of coarser 
perceptions, interpreted crudely what he knew to be Ivan's feel- 
ing. Having overheard him put forward the theory that to a man 
without faith in God and immortality "everything is permitted," 
and attributing to him his own mercenary motives — every member 
of the family stood to gain by the old man's death — Smerdyakov 
decided that he had Ivan's tacit consent to the murder. Ivan's 
irresponsiveness to his innuendoes he took to be the caution of a 
shrewd man who wished to furnish no evidence of his connivance, 
and when Ivan left town after Smerdyakov's hints of what might 
occur in his absence, the bastard believed he had the other's man- 
date to go ahead. He was not wholly mistaken: even before his 
departure Ivan felt the claw of conscience. 

In the course of his conversations with Smerdyakov after the 
crime has been committed, the horrifying truth dawns upon him: 
it was his own criminal desire, which he believed safely locked 
within his breast, that had guided the hand of the murderer. The 
scenes in which these two are confronted contain the subtlest drama 
that can be found in Dostoevsky's pages. In Crime and Punishment 
he showed the thinker compelled to action. Here he cries out that 
the wish is father to the deed, that the will to crime is equivalent 
to, or perhaps more evil than, the act. This is the doctrine of 
Christian maximalism: "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murder- 

If Ivan bears the brunt of the responsibility, his two brothers 


are not unimplicated in the crime. Dmitry wished to kill his father 
and was capable, in a fit of passion, of carrying out the murder. 
Indeed, suspicion falls upon him, and as circumstantial evidence 
is overwhelmingly against him, he becomes the victim of a judicial 
error and is sentenced to hard labour in Siberia. In deciding to bear 
the cross of his undeserved punishment, he is prompted not merely 
by a desire to atone for his disorderly life, but by the feeling that 
he is responsible for the sins of all mankind. As for Alyosha, he 
certainly did not wish his father's death. His sin was wholly one 
of omission: he failed to love enough, above all, he failed to draw 
into his spiritual orbit his wretched half brother, Smerdyakov. 

Early in the book one finds the Karamazovs gathered in the cell 
of Father Zosima, to whom they have come for arbitration of a 
quarrel between the old man and Dmitry. While they await the 
"elder,'' the conversation turns upon an article published by Ivan on 
the unlikely subject of the ecclesiastical courts. Therein he main- 
tained that the State should be absorbed by the Church, if the social 
ideal of Christianity was to be realized. After this idea has received 
the monks' hearty approval, a member of the company reports 
another theory of Ivan's. According to this, the moral law is the 
fruit of the belief in God and immortality; destroy that belief and 
^'everything would be permitted"; crime would be sanctioned; a 
limitless, savage egoism, to the point of cannibalism, would become 
the rule of conduct. Father Zosima at once recognizes that Ivan is 
a man struggling with unbelief, and that in his despair he formulates 
these diverse ideas at which he mocks inwardly, but that if he cannot 
give an affirmative answer to the question of the existence of God, 
he will never decide it in the negative: hence his agony. The gather- 
ing in the cell concludes with a scandalous scene to which the 
"elder" puts an end by bowing before Dmitry, in reverence, as he 
explains later, to the suffering in store for him. One wonders with 
Merezhkovsky why the saintly staretz singles out Dmitry rather 
than Ivan, who is potentially the greater criminal, and hence the 
greater sufferer: Dmitry would kill his earthly father, Ivan is capable 
of attempting upon his Heavenly Father. 

Ivan opens his heart to his brother Alyosha in a section of the 
novel that Dostoevsky himself considered its culmination. The 
famous scene is laid in a screened-off comer of a shabby tavern. 


and the two talk of first and last things to the popping of corks, 
the cHcking of billiard balls, the shouts of waiters and the drone 
of a mechanical organ. It is a marvel, Ivan tells the young novice, 
that the idea of God should have entered the head of "the savage 
and vicious animal" that man is. For his own part, he is ready to 
grant the existence of God, and even to admit that all creation 
moves toward an ultimate harmony, but he cannot justify the ways 
of a Deity who includes in His scheme the suffering of the innocent. 
He fails to recognize suffering as part of the divine pattern. And he 
proceeds to exhibit specimens from a collection of cruelties with 
which he would confront this unfathomable God. "The tears of 
humanity with which the earth is soaked from its crust to its core'' 
fill him with a bitterness that has no issue but rebellion, a rebellion 
anticipated by Ippolit (in The Idiot) and Kirillov (in The Possessed). 
He rejects God's world, he returns his entrance ticket to millen- 
nium, preferring to stay outside, intransigent, unreconciled, unfor- 
giving. Is there a being in the whole world, he asks, who has the 
right to grant absolution to torturers of the innocent? Alyosha points 
to Christ. Thereupon Ivan retells a "poem in prose" he has com- 
posed, though not written down — "The Grand Inquisitor." 

Christ returns to earth, appearing in Seville at the time of the 
Inquisition. He is recognised and adored by the people, but is 
thrown into prison by order of the Grand Inquisitor. The venerable 
churchman visits the divine captive in His cell and tells Him that 
on the morrow he will have Him condemned as the worst of heretics, 
and that at a sign from him, those who had just kissed His feet 
will heap the embers when He is burned at the stake. A long 
harangue follows. The gist of it is that the Grand Inquisitor accuses 
Christ of the unpardonable error of having brought men the promise 
of freedom. Satan had warned Him in the Wilderness that men were 
bound to abuse that gift or reject it altogether as an intolerable 
burden. That "wise and mighty spirit" bade Christ give men con- 
tentment and bind them to Him forever with the aid of miracle, 
mystery, and authority. But He had rejected these as diabolical 
temptations and chose to leave men free to come to Him, as souls 
capable of attaining their full stature. This has proved too exalted 
a view of mankind. Human beings are ignoble and vicious and, 
solicitous of the happiness of these poor creatures, says the Grand 


Inquisitor, the Church of Rome, while speaking in the name of 
Christ, has, in fact, allied itself with Satan. Before it will have 
achieved its purpose, however, it will undergo severe trials. Men 
are slaves, but rebellious ones. Now they are in revolt against the 
Church, and they will go further in wickedness. The time will come 
when they will follow leaders who will absolve them from all moral 
responsibility, declaring that there are no criminals, no sinners, but 
only the hungry, who should be fed before virtue is asked of them 
(here the Grand Inquisitor's prophecy is in substance an argument 
Belinsky had once advanced in Dostoevsky's hearing). With no 
faith save in the promise of material well-being held out by science, 
they will destroy the temples and attempt to build another Tower 
of Babel, but only end with "cannibalism'' (one recalls the remark 
of a character in The Idiot that people who begin by denying God 
end by devouring each other). After centuries of bloody confusion 
some will destroy themselves and there will be those who will 
destroy one another. The rest, in their disillusionment and despair, 
will crawl back into the fold of the Church, with no thought but to 
lay down their freedom at its feet, and be saved from themselves. 
Then the Church will emerge in triumph from the catacombs into 
which it will have been driven. Using the means Christ had spurned, 
including the sword of Caesar, it will proceed to secure peace and 
happiness for all under the aegis of the universal state. It will give 
men bread, comforting lies, rules of conduct, a unifying faith — in 
exchange for their liberty. And they will find joy in unquestioning 
obedience, hug their chains, and know the contentment of a well- 
fed herd. Alone the priestly elite will be martyred, shouldering the 
weight of secret unbelief and of free choice between good and evil. 

Having finished, the Grand Inquisitor waits for his prisoner to 
speak. For all reply Christ gently kisses the old man. The Grand 
Inquisitor then sets Him free, but, nowise shaken in his convictions, 
bids Him never, never return to interfere with the work of the Church. 

"The Grand Inquisitor" is, of course, another thrust at Catho- 
licism. Obliquely, "socialism" (or "anarchism" — Dostoevsky con- 
fused the two) is condemned as well. The builders of the Tower of 
Babel do not invoke the name of Christ as do the priestly rulers 
envisaged by the Grand Inquisitor, but they too despise man while 


loving him, they too seek to force happiness upon him, and relieve 
him of the onus of freedom, which is the heart of his humanity. 
The "poem" echoes Myshkin's tirade against the Church of Rome 
and elaborates Shigalyov's sketchy blueprint for Utopia (in The 
Possessed). Obviously it has a compelling actuality in our age as 
at once a dramatized epitome and an impeachment of the totali- 
tarian position. It is a tract for the times. 

"My socialist," wrote Dostoevsky to his publisher, referring to 
Ivan Karamazov, "differs from the general run of socialists in one 
respect: while they are 'conscious Jesuits and liars,' who do not 
concede that their purpose is to reduce mankind to the state of 
cattle, he frankly admits that he shares the Grand Inquisitor's views." 
Ivan's stand, as presented in the novel, is by no means so unequi- 
vocal. One gets the impression that while he may be inclined to share 
the Inquisitor's conception of human nature, and to accept his way 
out of the human predicament, he nevertheless regards that way 
with aversion. The reader is apt to see, as the novelist allows Father 
Zosima to see, that here is no cold sceptic, no callow blasphemer, 
but a puzzled, tormented man, at war with himself. 

In the latter part of the novel Ivan is brought face to face with 
a devil quite different from the one mentioned in the "Grand Inquisi- 
tor." This private demon of his is represented as a shabby gentle- 
man of middle age, sporting an eye-glass and fond of puns and 
broad stories. The ambiguous creature is drawn so as to suggest that 
he has an objective existence, yet to all intents and purposes he is 
Ivan's hallucination, the embodiment of his baser self, his mimic, 
as Satan, in Tertullian's phrase, is "the ape of God." One of the 
notions on which he harps, in self-justification, is that he also 
serves in the scheme of things: evil is the necessary foil for good, 
the logical complement of it, as darkness is of light. Dostoevsky 
apparently put this in the devil's niouth as an ugly platitude, an 
example of that vulgar common sense which he epitomizes. Yet 
when the devil says that without him life could not go on, that 
suffering makes it real, he is using an argument employed by 
Dostoevsky himself in seeking to justify the ways of God. Two 
years before he began the novel he had written to a friend that 
if Christ rejected the first temptation of the devil, choosing to 
feed man's spirit only, it was because He wanted humanity to 


learn what life meant, through struggle, through self-sacrifice, 
through suffering. So readily did he welcome pain — a character- 
istic of those who carry about with them a potent sense of guilt — 
that the ancient idea of the religious value of suffering had for him 
an intimate significance. 

In the course of his conversation with Ivan, the devil reminds 
him of another composition of his, "The Geological Upheaval.'' 
Herein Ivan imagined humanity, the idea of God and immortality 
discarded, the hope of heaven abandoned for the joys of earth, 
infinitely extending its conquest over nature by the exercise of the 
will and the development of the sciences. Death is serenely ac- 
cepted, and love, being transitory, is all the more intense. But, 
the poem runs, such a state of affairs is, after all, remote and un- 
certain. For the present, any individual who is so bold as to re- 
ject God and immortality may jump over the "former slave bar- 
riers of the former slave-man," and assume that "everything is 
permitted." If the opening of "The Geological Upheaval" reminds 
one of the dream of "the ridiculous man," the end takes one back to 
Raskolnikov. Ivan's argument with the devil is strongly reminis- 
cent of Raskolnikov's debates with himself. The devil would have 
it that conscience is merely a matter of habit, and he who gives it up 
will be as a god, a man-god. He taunts Ivan by telling him that 
in confessing his part in the crime he will "perform a deed of heroic 
virtue" without believing in virtue. Ivan, like Raskolnikov, is driven 
to confess somewhat against his will. He despises the "rabble" to 
whom his confession will be addressed. He is simply not strong 
enough to be the man-god. 

The scene between Ivan and his devil presents a divided soul 
confronting with horror its own division. Alyosha, who is plainly 
the novelist's spokesman at this point, feels that the forces of hell 
and heaven are battling for his brother, and prays that he may 
be compelled to confess and so find salvation. The prayer is granted: 
before the court Ivan declares that Smerdyakov committed the 
murder, and that he had incited the valet to do it, adding, "Who 
doesn't desire his father's death?" Ivan's mind gives way, as so 
often the body of a Dostoevsky hero breaks down in a spiritual 
crisis. It is suggested that he will recover, drawing on the inexhaust- 
ible Karamazov vitality. But, like the regeneration of Raskolnikov, 


that is another story. In A Raw Youth Dostoevsky did attack the 
problem of a sinner's regeneration, but witliout success. Shatov, in 
The Possessed, abandons the hopes and hatreds of a revolutionist 
to embrace Dostoevsky's own brand of religious nationalism, but 
this regeneration is merely reported, and that unconvincingly, not 
depicted. Dostoevsky believed that he had himself known such a 
change of heart when, in Siberia, he repented the errors of his youth, 
but whether or not the experience was an actual event in his life, 
he was unable to realize it in his art. 

''The blasphemy of my hero will be Sv emnly countered in the 
next book, and I am working on it full c*^ fear, trepidation, and 
awe, for I consider my task — the defeat of anarchism — a deed of 
civic heroism." Thus Dostoevsky wrote to the managing editor of 
Russky vestnik, having mailed the first half of Book Five, in which 
Ivan sets forth his subversive views. In the letter accompanying 
this next book, devoted to Father Zosima, he said that although he 
had not succeeded in expressing a tenth of what he wanted to, he 
considered this the climax of the novel. Pobedonostzev, having 
read the instalment in which Ivan speaks out, wrote flatteringly 
to Dostoevsky, but noted with regret that he had not, so far, re- 
futed the young atheist's ideas. To his illustrious correspondent, 
Dostoevsky repeated that the answer to Ivan, though not indeed 
a logical rebuttal, point by point, was contained in the section deal- 
ing with Zosima, a figure in the creation of which Pobedonostzev 
was to claim that he had had a part. But would his readers under- 
stand? Had he made himself clear? He was worried. He had to 
meet the requirements of the art of fiction while driving his point 
home. To some people certain passages would seem either over- 
spiritualized or absurd, and in the light of common day they were 
absurd, but from a more inward point of view, they were deeply 
true. He had written those pages with great love. He would force 
men to admit, he had previously told his editor, that a perfect 
Christian was no abstraction, but a palpable reality, and that 
Christianity alone would medicine all of Russia's ills. Here — he 
spoke as though he had not written Tlie Idiot — was a subject of 


absolute originality. He approached it with a proud humility. "For 
the sake of it," he concluded, *'I am writing the whole novel." 

Father Zosima, who as a staretz, possessed the gifts of a spiritual 
counsellor and healer, had been introduced early in the narrative, 
Dostoevsky seeking, in more than one scene, to illustrate his wis- 
dom and compassion. But it is only in Book Six, "The Russian 
Monk," that he attempted a rounded picture of the man, and set 
forth, in a more or less systematic way, the substance of his faith. 
Most of his beliefs are familiar enough to the reader of Dosto- 
evsky, and only the more important of them need be restated. 
There is a bond of union among all living creatures. Hence, when 
one man sins, all share the guilt. The terrible isolation in which 
men live must come to an end. The true society can never be achiev- 
ed by means of science or enlightened self-interest, but only if men 
desire it enough, only if men love one another. If love cannot 
justify suffering (nothing can, in the light of mere reason), it robs 
it of its sting. Hell is simply the inability to love. (Ivan, a denizen 
of that hell, is bound to find the problem of evil a stumbling-block). 
The gates to a heaven on earth cannot be forced. Men will turn 
freely to God. In the West, the proletarians resort to violence. In 
Russia Christian brotherhood will be won through meek faith. The 
Christian world is at present no better than heathendom and rests 
only on gome seven righteous men, but society will yet be trans- 
figured and, at some remote time, take on the character of "a 
single, universal, and all-powerful Church," the State having 
dropped away and withered like a sloughed skin. 

The Church as the ideal toward which society should move was 
indeed, Dostoevsky had told Solovyov, the central idea of his novel. 
It must have been reassuring for his ultraconservative friends, such 
as Pobedonostzev, to realize that this was a millennial hope rather 
than a practical programme. If "elder" Zosima's teachings, so 
dear to Dostoevsky, were to be carried out literally, what would 
become of the established order? The novelist was an untnistworthy 
ally. He knew no measure, no restraint. His Christianity was danger- 
ously tinged with anarchism. No enemy of statehood has so clearly 
exposed, in the chapters on Dmitry's trial, the cruel clumsiness of 
Leviathan in meting out justice, as this avowed monarchist. An 
instinctive animus against the State, a conception of it as a soulless 


monster, a cold machine, was characteristic of pre-revolutionary 
Russian thought, and Dostoevsky was here at one with many of 
his compatriots with whom he was otherwise in disagreement. 

On one point his theology was quite heretical. That the naive 
faith of the peasant, which he was always crying up, fed on the 
miraculous he was undoubtedly aware. Indeed, his own being thirst- 
ed after it. In "The Grand Inquisitor" Christ, on coming to Seville, 
makes a blind man see and raises a child from the dead. Neverthe- 
less, in the same "poem," it will be recalled, miracle is spurned 
by Him as a diabolical temptation and espoused by the Church of 
Rome as a means of enslaving men's minds. In a note for the novel 
Father Zosima admonishes his flock thus: "Children, do not seek 
miracles, for miracles kill faith." Dostoevsky, exalting freedom of 
conscience, of necessity took this stand. He was, hov/ever, uneasy 
about his deviation from orthodoxy in rejecting miracles. He 
explained apologetically to his editor that he had not invented the 
episode of the rapid corruption of Father Zosima's dead body: a 
similar occurrence had taken place in a monastery on Mount Athos. 
The incident was needed for the story: the scandal was a convenient 
way of testing the strength of Alyosha's faith. The novelist declared 
that he would be last to cast doubt on the miraculous power of 
holy rehcs. If he did not have the courage of his convictions, he 
had no small-minded fear of contradicting himself. 

For years, indeed, ever since he had conceived the grandiose 
project of the Life of a Great Sinner, Dostoevsky had wanted to 
enshrine in a novel, against the monastic background, the image 
of some saintly man, some rock of the Church. The unpublished 
chapters of The Possessed contain a faint outline of such a char- 
acter in such a setting. And now at last his dream was a reality. 
A reality? Scarcely. He believed that he had a firm grasp on the 
figure of his Pater Seraphicus, as he called Zosima, and that the 
"elder's" faith was his own. "I cherish," he wrote, "the very same 
thoughts that Zosima expresses," although, of course, he would 
have worded them differently, had he spoken in his own char- 
acter. He had managed to set forth Zosima's credo and had been 
successful in sketching in the man's background. But the staretz 
himself, whose life, whose works, whose personality, above all, was 
to be a refutation of Ivan's "blasphemy," somehow remains a pale 

abstraction, a mere ghost compared to the solidity of a Karamazov. 

Mawkishness and unctuousness mark the whole section in which 
the career and doctrine of Zosima are retailed in a style borrowed 
from religious writings. It is totally wanting in the impact, the ten- 
sion that one associates with Dostoevsky. The story of Zosima's 
life opens with the account of the last days of his brother, a young 
man dying of consumption, who accepts his end with angelic joy. 
The situation parallels that of Ippolit in The Idiot, but there, it 
will be remembered, the boy rebels against his fate. That passage 
has a savage thrust, carries a tearing grief, while the history of the 
monk's brother is intolerably insipid and unreal. There are flaws 
in Father Zosima that must disconcert even those who have no 
quarrel with his point of view. When the old Karamazov half 
jestingly asks what he must do to inherit eternal life, the "elder" 
advises him, among other things, to close up his drinking-houses: 
'Tf not all, close at least two or three" — a counsel of imperfection 
worthy rather of the Grand Inquisitor. The figure of the "elder," 
though wrought with patient care and pious intention, is one of 
the least convincing of the novelist's creations. 

Whether or not he remained satisfied with the chapters on him, 
Dostoevsky came to feel that something more was needed by way 
of rebuttal than the argument to be drawn from the account of the 
life of the staretz. Indeed, he jotted down in his notebook, the whole 
novel was an answer to Ivan. Of course, it is no more a logical 
answer than is the section on Zosima — dialectic was not Dosto- 
evsky's strong point. Yet it remains true that, for all their kinship 
with their harrassed brother, Dmitry and Alyosha represent an 
attitude of yea-saying to life which triumphs over, though it does 
not cancel, Ivan's doubt and negation. 

In the superb figure of Dmitry the passionate affirmation is most 
effectively symbolized. The high words of Schiller's "Hymn to 
Joy" are on the lips and more truly in the heart of this rough army 
officer, who does not stop short of peculation and who lives so 
carelessly and loosely. He will carry this song with him as a con- 
vict into the mines, underground. Like Ivan, Dmitry has his vision 
of evil, but whereas the younger brother scorns so botched a world, 
the elder, confronted in a dream with the misery of mankind, feels 
that it is all the result of a cruel misunderstanding. The suffering 


can be wiped out. He will erase it himself by some heroic act. Tlie 
sobs will be turned into a song of joy. He wakes from the dream, 
prepared thereby ultimately to accept his own suffering — his punish- 
ment for a crime that he did not commit. Dmitry's self-abnegation, 
which is a token of his spiritual rebirth, points the moral that was 
in Dostoevsky's mind when he set as an epigraph to the novel the 
text: "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth 
alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." 

If Dmitry's heroism is passive — as that of a Dostoevsky char- 
acter must be — both in his hugging of his cross and in his periods 
of rebellion against it, he is still embracing life, as only a Karamazov 
can. In a different way, Alyosha makes the same response. His 
ecstasy is not less intense, but purer. He obeys literally Father Zo- 
sima's behest to kiss the earth and water it with his tears, and gives 
to the precept a human meaning. After his brief moment of temp- 
tation caused by the scandal attending the death of the staretz, 
Alyosha returns to the cell where the Gospel is being read over the 
corpse. As he listens, kneeling, to the recital of the passage on the 
marriage of Cana, he falls into a gentle doze and dreams that both 
he and his beloved "elder" are at the wedding feast, drinking the 
new wine, "the wine of new joy." In the state of ecstasy to which 
the dream brings him, he wakes, leaves his dead, and goes out into 
the soft glory, the starred mystery of the night. His heart swollen 
with rapture, he throws himself on the ground, kisses it, and. 
sobbing, vows to love the earth "for ever and ever." 

This scene is of profound significance. It is the consummation 
toward which Dostoevsky had been moving all along. Alyosha's 
gesture is the symbol of a spiritualized sensuality such as man knows 
only in the rarest instances. It is as though in giving Alyosha this 
dream and the exaltation that followed upon it, Dostoevsky had 
been able to overcome his own division, to unite the physical and 
spiritual man as he bridged the gulf between carnal and spiritual 
love. Herewith he utters a syllable of the Word he had for so long 

been striving to say. 

I V 

The father-son relation is a major theme in A Raw Youth. 
There Dostoevsky is concerned with a youth's search for and 


discovery of his father. In The Brothers Karamazov he shows the 
sons possessed by a murderous hatred for their unnatural parent, 
and builds the novel upon the murder of the old man by his 
bastard, with the tacit connivance of at least one of his legitimate 
sons. Here he was driving home the same moral lesson that he 
had sought to point in Crime and Punishment: that the mind, having 
abandoned the religious attitude toward life, may not be able to 
return to that haven save by the road of crime. It is mere conjecture 
that in fashioning the plot he was influenced by Fyodorov's philo- 
sophy, in which filial devotion was the sum and substance of piety 
and, by the same token, parricide the archcrime. The psychoanalytic 
view has it — and this suggestion seems to thrust deeper — that what 
Dostoevsky in essence did in this novel was unconsciously to re- 
enact the murder of his father by the outraged serfs, and his own 
reaction to it. This was allegedly, as has been indicated in an earlier 
chapter, an overix)vvering sense of guilt, due to the fact that the 
assassination fulfilled the boy's unconscious death wish. The tragedy, 
with its emotional repercussions, had, it is held, brought on his 
epilepsy, had informed his thinking, and had strongly affected the 
play of his imagination. It is his last novel which is his fullest con- 
fession, it is here that the whole complex, which had shadowed his 
life for forty years, is seen less darkly than in any other of his works. 
Those who read this meaning into The Brothers Karamazov are 
bound to put special emphasis on whatever points to an identifica- 
tion of the author with the two men most deeply involved in the 
murder: Smerdyakov and Ivan. Much has been made of the fact 
that the novelist afflicted the actual assassin with his own disease. 
Freud goes so far as to say that he did so *'as if he were try- 
ing to confess that the epileptic, the neurotic, in him were a 

There can be small doubt as to the identification of the novelist 
with Ivan Karamazov. This character, in some respects a portrait 
of the author as a young man, is, to a large degree, a self-revela- 
tion. Ivan has Dostoevsky's lust for life, his acute sense of evil, 
his capacity for cruelty toward others — particularly those he loved 
—and toward himself, and that duality Dostoevsky recognized to 
be his own, a source of perpetual anguish and perverse pleasure. 
Was it true that when he had Ivan say that he could not under- 


stand how it was possible for a man to love his neighbour, he was 
describing precisely his own sentiments? So Strakhov contended 
in a letter to Rozanov, who was a close student of Dostoevsky's 
work and, it will be recalled, for a time the husband of Polina 
Suslova. In reply Rozanov made the comment that Dostoevsky's 
harping on love was very suspicious; "It is as though he were 
blowing on his frozen fist and stamping his feet in the cold." A 
more plausible picture of both Ivan's attitude and his creator's is 
given in The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, where the narrator 
soliloquizes thus: ". . . in my hatred for the men of our earth 
there was always a yearning anguish: Why could I not hate them 
without loving them? Why could I not help forgiving them? And 
in my love for them there was a yearning grief: Why could I not 
love them without hating them?" 

Strakhov spoke of Dostoevsky's hatred of his neighbour in con- 
nection with his unfaith, saying that this was the secret of his tor- 
ment. But it is more probable that Dostoevsky, rather than being 
without real faith, was torn by doubt, and that what he projected 
most effectively in Ivan was the quarrel within himself between 
a strong religious disposition and the obstinate, sceptical voice of 
reason. He had always insisted that his was not a naive childlike 
faith, but that his "hosannah" had "passed through a crucible of 
doubts." His pillorying of Ivan was indirectly a self-flagellation. 

There is in the eldest brother, Dmitry, a healthfulness, a physical 
exuberance, that makes it difficult to see in him the lineaments 
of his creator. Yet they are certainly there: the strong sensuality, 
the unrestraint, the extremism, the longing, most intense at the 
moment of utter debasement, for spiritual grace. This rough, vigor- 
ous, passionate man shares Dostoevsky's roomy-hearted ness and 
lack of integration. "Yes, man is broad, too broad, indeed. I'd have 
him narrower," he observes in a reflective moment. He is perplexed 
by the contradictions within himself. "What to the mind is shameful 
is beauty and nothing else to the heart." Beauty is terrible to him 
because "here the boundaries meet and all contradictions exist side 
by side." He is horrified by the thought that there is "beauty" 
in physical lust as well as in spiritual exaltation: in "the ideal of 
Sodom," so he phrases it, as well as in "the ideal of the Madonna,'* 

carnality. . 
he could [/ 
were dis- cX--^ 

'^HURRAH FOR K AR A M A ZO V ! " 389 

and the fact that a man may cherish both at once confuses him 
painfully. Here one finds an echo of the Idiot's "double thoughts," 
a repetition of the Raw Youth's wonder at "that faculty in man 
(and in the Russian . . . more especially) of cherishing in his 
soul the loftiest ideal side by side with the most abject baseness, 
and all quite sincerely." Indeed, one may go back as far as The 
Gambler to find a similar observation, made this time by an Eng- 
lishman: "Russians alone can combine in themselves so many 
opposites at the same time." The problem of dual impulses, of 
psychic hermaphroditism never lost its reality for Dostoevsky. 

In Ivan, in Dmitry, in the old Karamazov, the novelist em- 
bodied his own mental conflict, his emotional disorder, his carnality. 
Through these characters, and that of Smerdyakov, 
give his own dark impulses their freedom, because they were dis- 
guised, like the elements that rise to consciousness in the dream. 
Alyosha, on the other haod, represented the man he would so 
gladly have been: armoured in faith, strong to overcome tempta- 
tion, rich in love, wise in compassion. The same need was satisfied 
by fashioning the image of Alyosha and that of Father Zosima. 
Dostoevsky failed to realize the "elder" because, one suspects, this 
character was derived from the surface of his mind. The presenta- 
tion of a perfect Christian, with no trace of the human weakness to 
be found in Alyosha Karamazov and in Prince Myshkin, with no 
grain of that evil will which was to Dostoevsky fundamental in 
human nature, was a task beyond his powers and, indeed, foreign 
to his genius, however deeply devoted to such an enterprise he felt 
himself to be. 

In Dostoevsky the instinct and vision of the novelist were at one 
with the commitments and fervour of the believer, or rather the 
would-be believer. To labour, once again, to the greater glory of 
God was his manifest intention in writing The Brothers Karamazov. 
Small wonder then that in the novel faith is allowed the final word, 
the faith of the simple folk. On the very last page Alyosha affirms his 
belief in the literal resurrection of the dead. In answer to the boys' 
question as they stand at the grave of little Ilyusha, he says: "Cer- 
tainly we shall rise again, certainly we shall see each other and 
relate to each other with joy and gladness all that has happened." 


Carried away by love for their mentor and comrade, the children 
shout: "Hurrah for Karamazov!" The cry is not merely an amen 
to Alyosha's pious affirmation. Like the "Hymn to Joy" that cele- 
brates the lust of insects as well as the vision of angels and that 
Dmitry rapturously quotes, it may be taken as a hosanna to all 
of life, in its earthliness and in its moments of transcendence. 


IT APPEARS from the brief and lame foreword to The Brothers 
Karamazov that Dostoevsky intended to follow it up with a 
sequel. In the novel as it stands Alyosha takes a subordinate 
part, but in the author's mind he was the hero of the tale, the 
drama related there was a mere incident of his youth, and his 
story proper was to be the substance of a second volume in which 
the same characters were to figure. Very little is known of Dostoev- 
sky's plans for this book, and that little is doubtful. It is said that 
Alyosha was to become involved in the revolutionary movement, 
commit a political crime, and be executed. According to a more 
plausible version, and one nearer to his unfulfilled project for The 
Life of a Great Sinner, he was to marry Lise, abandon her, fall into 
temptation, go astray, and at last find his way back to the monastry, 
where he was to end his days, a beloved teacher, surrounded by a 
flock of children. 

For the present, however, this sequel was not to be thought of. 
The enterprise to which he turned forthwith was the Writer s Diary. 
The thought of it had been with him while he was writing the novel. 
There were things he felt impelled to say to his compatriots with- 
out the indirections of fiction. As early as August, 1879, he was 
writing to Pobedonostzev: "I have, I really have something to say, 
and just in the way in which you would have me say it." He expect- 
ed, on resuming the Diary, to appeal to this eminent friend for 
advice, as he had previously done. How gravely he regarded his 
task may be judged from the words he wrote to an acquaintance 
just before embarking upon it: ^'Having decided to issue the Diary 
again next year, I have often prayed to God on my knees to grant 
me a pure heart, a pure, sinless word, spoken without irritation, 
without envy." 

The Brothers Karamazov was still on the stocks when he began 



making jottings for the forthcoming Diary. Some of them were 
incorporated into the sole number that appeared. It is of a piece 
with its predecessors. There is the same rambhng. muddle-headed, 
opinionated comment on the topics of the day, with some excur- 
sions into political philosophy and occasional flare-ups of pro- 
phetic fire. The issue opens with an attempt, only half serious, to 
touch upon the financial questions which then occupied everyone's 
attention, but soon Dostoevsky leaves this difficult ground and 
turns to such familiar matter as the antinomy of Russia and Europe, 
the alienation of the intellectuals from the masses, the mission of 
the Russian people. 

Here is once more the same medley of populist sentiment and 
monarchist faith, of C3iristian professions and jingoistic bluster. 
"Above all," he writes, "I stand for the masses, I believe religiously 
in their soul, in their great strength, which no one among us knows 
in its full scope and grandeur." Among his notes for the issue is the 
round statement: "The ideal of beauty is the Russian people." How- 
ever lacking the masses may be in other ways, at least they have 
something to live by: their God and their tsar. The Orthodox faith 
is their one spiritual treasure. As for the bond between the people and 
the Tsar, it is like that between a father and his children, a bond that 
is the adamant foundation of all Russian history, past, present, 
and to come. In fact the father of his people was just then 
hiding in his palace as in a prison, the object of a manhunt on the 
part of some of his children. One of the very men who were plotting 
against the tsar's life lodged just above the Dostoevsky flat, and was 
arrested the very night the novelist was taken mortally ill. In Dosto- 
evsky's eyes the terrorists were the ultimate dreadful symbol of the 
division between the intellectuals and the people. That he was not 
a simple-hearted believer in his monarch's paternal good will, 
however, may be seen from a jotting in his notebook to the effect 
that he would serve the tsar even more faithfully if the latter would 
really come to believe that the people were his children. "Only," 
he adds wistfully, "he is taking a little too long to believe it." 

The way for the tsar to show his fatherly confidence in the people 
is by inviting them to speak freely before him. First of all, the 
peasants should be asked to tell their needs, in a straightforward 
fashion, without resorting to any semblance of a Western parlia- 


ment. The details of this happy scheme I>ostoevsky is content to 
leave to the authorities. He says merely that "the inquiry may be 
conducted locally, by districts and cottages." At last the man of 
the soil will become vocal, and this will have momentous effects. 
For one thing, perhaps the old wall that has been standing between 
the classes and the masses will crumble. The honest utterance of 
the plain man — that will be Russia's salvation, that, rather than the 
"crowning of the edifice" of which so much talk is heard. The 
cryptic phrase referred to a constitution establishing parliamentary 
government. Any direct mention in the press of this consummation, 
which liberals had devoutly wished for generations, was taboo, and 
even the euphemism for it was used with circumspection. 

Not everyone in higher government circles saw the salvation of 
the old order in bloody reprisals against the terrorists. There were 
those who favoured liberal reforms along with a firm attitude toward 
subversion. They gained ascendancy when Count Loris-Melikov 
was appointed Minister of the Interior after heading a Supreme 
Commission for the Maintenance of State Order and Public Peace. 
He went so far as to propose the establishment of a consultative 
legislative Commission, which was to include elected delegates from 
zemstvo boards and municipal councils, in addition to functionaries 
and appointed experts. The plan, which was taken to be the first step 
toward representative government, was dubbed by a humorist "the 
bob-tailed constitution." 

Dostoevsky has nothing but scorn for the idea of a parliamentary 
regime. To the people this could only mean a change of masters, 
a change for the worse. He heaps contumely on "tlie white vests" 
(the prospective Russian M.P.s) and their "talkery." Their efforts, 
he writes in the Diary, are bound to be a failure. "They will only 
knock their heads against each other in the dark." In his notebook 
he abuses the constitution, the "European wench," in unprintable 
terms. What angers him above all is the notion of interposing any- 
thing between the people and their tsar. In essence what Dostoev- 
sky wants is a dictatorship of the peasantry — a crowned dictator- 
ship. And in the fullness of time this peasant empire will become 
an all embracing Church, a spiritual union in Christ. This is what 
he calls "Russian socialism." contrasting it with the soulless 


materialistic socialism of the West. This transformation of State 
into Church, one reads in his notebook, will be the true "crowning 
of the edifice," but a couple of pages further on he observes real- 
istically that the Church as a living institution has been in a state 
of paralysis since the time of Peter. 

Christianity versus socialism, the solution of the social problem 
by love or by reason — this dilemma vexed Dostoevsky to the last. 
He has no doubts as to which will prevail: "A new sudden spirit 
will blow." Certainly Russia has nothing to fear, although the 
future is fraught with danger. The end of the world is coming, he 
prophesies, falling into his old apocalyptic strain. The close of the 
century will be marked by such a cataclysm as has never been seen 
before. But Russia must stand like a rock, and the waves will break 
on her shore. "No, we have no socialism, not at all," is his last 

As though he needed to reassure himself on this point, he kept 
returning to his other favourite idea, namely that morality is rooted 
in faith. "Moral ideas," he jotted in his notebook, "spring from re- 
ligious feeling. Logic can never justify them." And again: "Con- 
science without God is a horror; it may go astray to the point of 
immorality." The sole touchstone of morality is Christ. "But this," 
he goes on, "is no longer philosophy; this is faith; and faith is [as 
unmistakable as] the colour red." As though not yet satisfied with 
his formulation of the idea, he stages a brief debate with a utilitarian, 
which concludes thus: "To turn the other cheek, to love an- 
other more than yourself, not because it is advantageous, but 
because you like it to the point of its becoming a burning feeling, 
a passion. 'Christ was mistaken' — admitted. This burning feeling 
says: I would rather stay with the mistake, with Christ, than with 
you." It is the conviction that he believed he had acquired in prison 
a quarter of a century previously and that he had then expressed in 
practically identical terms. 

In the same breath he preaches turning the other cheek and advo- 
cates, in his Diary, a public policy of shrewdness and violence. 
In Europe, he writes, Russia should lie low, all the while working 
hard at home, in secret preparation for the coming conflict. But in 
the East aggressiveness must be the order of the day. "In Europe 


we were hangers-on and slaves, Asia we shall enter as masters." 
Besides, the Russians, though Europeans, are also, and perhaps 
more truly, Asiatics. Skobelev's victory over the Turkomans on 
January 12, 1881, which completed the conquest of Turkestan, 
seems to him of immense historic significance, since Asia might 
play a decisive part in the future of the country. With its vast ex- 
panses, the continent is perhaps destined to save Russia from com- 
munism. Alexander I had made a capital mistake, he argues, in 
failing to come to terms with Napoleon after driving him out of the 
country: had he done so, the two might have divided the world, 
France securing the West and Russia the East. Napoleon would 
have failed in the end, but Russia would have retained the East 
and, as a sea power, could easily have defeated England. That old 
error must be rectified: Russia must face East. "To Asia! To Asia!" 
Dostoevsky cries, and the last public utterance of this apostle of 
Christian love was a cheer for Skobelev's conquering battalions. 


The year 1881 opened auspiciously. The novel was a huge sec- 
cess in every respect — a staggering number of copies, fifteen hundred 
in all, were sold within a few days after its publication in book 
form. Furthermore, subscriptions to the Diary were pouring in. 
Dostoevsky 's health seemed better than usual, although it was clear 
that only his nervous energy sustained him. He went out a good 
deal and even consented to take part in private theatricals arranged 
by Countess Tolstoy. As the month wore on, however, and the 
publication date for the first issue of the Diary approached, he was 
again in his customary hectic state. Would the censor pass the 
remarks on summoning the spokesmen of the peasantry? It was a 
matter of great importance to him, since he intended to return to 
the subject repeatedly in the course of the year. By Sunday, January 
25, the entire copy for the issue was in the hands of the printer and 
Dostoevsky had received a reassuring word from the censor, who 
was a personal friend of the countess, that the text would not be 
tampered with. The day found him, relieved at having the issue 
safely off his hands, in a good mood, and the house was full of 
guests. Before the afternoon was over, however, his irritability got 


the better of him, and he had a little tiff with one of them over a 
trivial matter. 

That evening his sister Vera, who had come from Moscow on 
a visit, was dining with the family. The meal began pleasantly 
enough, with jokes and reminiscences, but soon the guest steered 
the conversation toward that sore subject, the Kumanina inheri- 
tance. Indeed, she had come as an envoy of the other sisters, all 
of them incensed by Dostoevsky's having secured through litiga- 
tion a share in the estate to which the will did not entitle him. Vera's 
mission was to persuade her brother to give it up, and she did not 
mince words in denouncing his greed and cruelty. She ended by 
bursting into tears, and he, mortified beyond words, left the table 
before dinner was over and fled to his study. The ugly scene was 
destined to be the last in a long feud. As he sat at his desk, his head 
in his hands, he suddenly realized that they were wet with blood 
that was trickling from his mouth: he was having a haemorrh- 

Such is his daughter's account of what occurred. Strakhov's 
reminiscences lend some slight support to this story. On the other 
hand, Dostoevsky's wife says nothing in her memoirs of any family 
quarrel. According to her, the haemorrhage of the lungs came late 
at night and was caused by the strain of moving a heavy piece of 

There was a second and more serious haemorrhage on Monday 
afternoon, but he made light of it and tried to soothe his frightened 
children by showing them a humorous weekly that had just come. 
He was sufficiently himself to write with his own hand a letter — 
his last — to Russky vestnik, pleading for the immediate payment 
of a sum owing to him, on the grounds that he was "in extreme 
need of money." The doctor arrived, and in the course of the ex- 
amination there was another flow of blood, which so weakened him 
that he fainted. On recovering consciousness, he called for a priest, 
confessed, and received extreme unction. As soon as the priest left, 
Anna came in with the children to congratulate him upon having 
taken the sacrament. He gave the children his blessing and bade 
them love each other and take care of their mother. He asked her 
to read them the parable of the prodigal son. Then he bade them 
never forget what they had just heard, trust in God, and, should 


they fall into evil ways, remember that God's forgiveness was in- 
finite and that He would rejoice in their repentance as the father 
had rejoiced in the return of his prodigal son. When the children 
left the room, he turned to Anna, thanked her for the happiness 
she had brought him, and begged her forgiveness for any unkind- 
ness he may have shown her. 

On Tuesday he seemed better. He was cheerful, called in the 
children, and even spoke to them, in a whisper. As the day wore 
on he began to fret about the Diary. Then the make-up man came 
with news that the issue had been passed by the censor, but that 
the copy was seven lines too long and would have to be cut. With 
Anna's help the difficulty was ironed out, and Dostoevsky was able 
\o rest. Meanwhile news of his illness had got abroad, and expres- 
sions of sympathy began to pour in. 

A quiet night followed. Waking while it was still dark, Anna, 
who had slept on a mattress beside the divan where he lay, found 
his eyes were fixed upon her. She bent over him. He had been awake 
for hours, he whispered, and added that he knew he would die 
that day. He asked her to light a candle and give him his Bible. 
She handed him the copy of the New Testament which had been 
presented to him in Siberia on his way to prison, and which he 
always kept by him. He was in the habit of opening it at random 
and telling his fortune by the passage upon which his eye lighted. 
He opened it thus now and bade her read. The words she read at 
the top of the page were these: "But John detained him, saying: I 
have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? But Jesus 
answering said unto him: Do thou not detain me, for thus it be- 
cometh us to fulfil all righteousness." " 'Do thou not detain me,' " 
Dostoevsky repeated; "that means I shall die." And he closed the 

He was calm, and tried to comfort Anna, speaking of the chil- 

=* This account figures in the reminiscences of Dostoevsky 's widow. She 
told an early biographer of her husband that the reading of the Bible took 
place in the afternoon of the day he died. The page in question bears the 
following inscription in her hand: "Opened by me and read at Fyodor 
Mikhailovich's request on the day of his death at 3 o'clock." The passage 
on v/hich he lighted was Matthew III, 14-15. In the King James Version it 
reads: "But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, 
and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be 
so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." This is some- 


dren, reminding her of their happiness together, assuring her that in 
the fourteen years of their married Hfe he had not been unfaithful to 
her even in thought (had he utterly forgotten Polina?). She tried 
to turn his mind to other things and begged him to rest. He obeyed 
her and was silent, but she knew by his expression that he was still 
brooding on death, though it held no terrors for him. Did she read 
his face aright? Tn her account of those last hours, she is plainly 
intent upon painting a picture of a truly Christian passing. He was 
dying at the height of his powers, with his work unfinished and 
just when, for the first time, there was some hope of going on 
with it unhampered. Was he confronting his end with the sub- 
missiveness with which he had accepted his prison sentence, or was 
he relinquishing his hold with the reluctance of one who shared 
the Karamazov lust for life? Did he feel no shudder of dread, had 
he at last recovered that faith in which he could confidently mur- 
mur his childhood prayer: "All my hope I place in thee. Mother 
of God; shelter me under thy mantle"? 

Late in the morning all hope was abandoned. The one thought 
that seemed to oppress the dying man was that he was leaving Anna 
and the children without means. Certainly they could not depend 
on the income from his published works. Where would they turn? 
He kept v/hispering broken words of pity to Anna, as she sat beside 
him holding his hand. Several times the children came in for a brief 
moment, and he gave little Fedya his chief treasure: his New Testa- 

As the day wore on the apartment filled up with friends and 
relatives. Pasha rushed in, demanding to be admitted to the sick 
room, but was prevented. He was excited. He kept insisting that, 
as his father had as yet made no disposition of his property, a notary 
should be summoned at once to draw up a will. 

Toward seven in the evening Dostoevsky had a haemorrhage 
so severe that he lost consciousness. The doors of the sick room 
were opened, and people filed into the shabby, gloomy chamber. It 
was an added agony for Anna to share his last moments with these 
outsiders, some of whom were not even friends, but she was helpless. 

what different from what Dostoevsky's wife read. The book before her was 
a copy of the 1820 edition of the Russian New Testament. In later editions 
the text of verse 15 was corrected to bring it closer to the original and so 
to the English translation. 


The motionless figure lay on the divan, and there was no sound 
but the whistle of weak, difficult breathing. His head was thrown 
back upon the pillow, and a light nearby fell squarely upon the 
white forehead and cheek and a smudge of blood on the chin. The 
two children knelt at the head of the couch, making the sign of the 
cross over and over in a frightened, hurried way. Anna clung to 
his hand. At last the priest came to murmur the prayer for the 
dying. It was eight thirty-six when the doctor, bending over the 
body of Fyodor Dostoevsky, caught the last beat of that divided 


DURING his last years Dostoevsky's publicist writings had 
considerably coloured his reputation. Death, retiring the 
journalist, advanced the novelist, but at the moment of his 
passing the tributes were paid to both. And the loudest acclaim 
came from the conservatives. Pobedonostzev, writing to the heir 
apparent, lamented the loss of an ardent Christian and patriot, 
and was told in reply that the man was truly irreplaceable. Church 
and State united to turn the stupendous funeral into quasi-official 
ceremony. There were some to whom the spectacle of the bishops 
eulogizing the Russian Marquis de Sade, as Turgenev put it, was 
food for irony. There was a handful of radicals who looked upon the 
dead man as one who had, after all, once fought in the cause of 
freedom. Indeed, it was rumoured that some students were restrained 
from marching behind the coffin carrying fetters in memory of 
Dostoevsky's political martyrdom. But on the whole it was as the 
apostle of pity and love, the spiritual guide, the hunianitarian that 
he was remembered in the public orisons. 

A month later the capital was agitated by another funeral, that 
of Alexander II, who had been killed by a terrorist bomb. His 
successor, piloted by Pobedonostzev, pursued a policy or repression 
which postponed until the reign of Nicholas II the hour of reckon- 
ing, and made it the more terrible when it came. During the grey 
eighties people adopted a "brighten-the-corner-where-you-are" 
attitude and engaged in self-cultivation. In such an atmosphere 
Dostoevsky's work was apt to be prized mainly for the problems of 
the individual conscience that it poses. 

As the century drew to a close these novels found an increasingly 
receptive audience. The literary world, having entered upon its fin 
de siecle phase, exhibited a romantic, anti-rationalist bias. The tide 
of individualism ran so high that Nietzsche rivalled Marx in popu- 



larity. A large group was submitting itself to the discipline of philo- 
sophy. The more tender-minded intellectuals finding the materialist 
doctrines chill and cramping, looked for some comforting faith. 
Soon God-seeking and God-building became the fashion. Some 
preached a new synthesis of flesh and spirit, others, a communal re- 
Hgious consciousness; all inclined to share a belief in the Messianic 
role of the Russian people and a mystic sense of imminent doom. 
Both the neo-romantics and the neo-Christians adopted Dostoevsky 
as their spiritual father. At the same time the industrial development 
of the country, and the consequent growth of the city population, 
with "its sick hurry, its divided aims," made the fictions of this 
intellectual proletarian more actual. There were those on the Left 
who cried down his work as socially dangerous. But even in revo- 
lutionary circles there were some who valued him not only as a 
novelist, but as a man whose work carried a rebellious strain and 
a profoundly democratic sentiment. This in spite of the fact that his 
opinions continued to give aid and comfort to the monarchists and, 
during the first World War, the expansionists. 

At the fall of the empire the influence of Dostoevsky was part 
of the very air that literate Russia breathed. There was hardly an 
imaginative writer who did not owe him something, by way of 
manner, if not of matter, so that even those who did not read him 
could not escape him. By this time his writings belonged to the 
body of European culture. Abroad, as at home, his prestige was 
at once an effect and a contributing cause of the reaction against 
the positivism of the previous era. The Western world showed 
toward his performance an intellectual hospitality that, along with 
other virtues, he had summarily denied it. Translations of his novels 
had begun to appear while he was still living. A decade after his 
death the bulk of his work was accessible in German. Then France 
welcomed it, and shortly before the first World War his collected 
fiction began to appear in English. If he came to his new public with 
the credentials of a naturalist and a critic of the social order, he 
appealed to it largely as an interpreter of that strange and wonderful 
thing, the Russian soul. As time went on, however, and new de- 
velopments in psychology became familiar to the general, his novels 
ceased to seem so exotic. 

It was during the war and the calamitous decade following it 


that his vogue in the West, especially in Germany, reached its peak. 
The few deprecatory voices were lost in a chorus of acclaim. The 
reason why people turned to Dostoevsky in those troubled times 
is not far to seek. The sadism fostered by the war lent this "cruel 
talent" a new resonance. Further, the world of his fictions was con- 
genial to men who had a sense of being caught in the grip of catas- 
trophe. Some saw him as a prophet of Europe's doom. To others he 
appealed as the apostle of a revivified Christianity, or as the keeper 
of the keys to the unconscious, in which the West must immerse 
itself before it could take up the task of building anew. 

A reaction against what amounted to a cult of Dostoevsky was 
inevitable. It occurred in Great Britain and America in the years 
immediately preceding the second World War. Simultaneously his 
influence waned in Germany under the impact of Nazism, which 
because of its xenophobia seems to have made but a feeble effort 
to claim him as a proto-fascist. 

Since the end of the war there has been a revival of Dostoevsky's 
vogue. Witness the flood of new translations, biographies, critical 
works. It is noteworthy that the emphasis of the commentators has 
been less on the novelist's art, than on his thinking, on the ideas 
to which his fictions give body and pressure. Re-examination of the 
values of liberal democracy has brought some of his writings into 
focus, and much of his work has acquired new relevance by virtue 
of the intensified concern with religion. More than one author has 
been at pains to harmonize Dostoevsky's views with the teachings of 
Catholicism — not an easy task, considering his hostility toward the 
Church of Rome and his infirmities as a theologian. On the other 
hand, his vehement anti-intellectualism, which leads him to cast 
reason in the role of the villain of the human drama, his reliance on 
faith as a means of apprehending reality, his tendency to place 
his characters in extreme situations, his emphasis on the individual's 
self-determination through free choice, his sense of tragedy — all this 
has enabled the existentialists to recruit him for their camp, at least 
for its Christian sector. 

Whatever the vicissitudes of Dostoevsky's reputation, his popu- 
larity has apparently been confined to the intellectual class. One 
gets the impression that even at the height of his vogue his work 
was largely caviare to the general, at least in the English-speaking 


countries. An author anxious to reach the common reader, he has 
been, instead, to a large extent a writer's writer, finding particularly 
responsive members of his public among his fellow literati. Has he 
not left his mark on the fiction of the Western world? Indeed, at- 
tempts have been made, if not always successfully, to specify the 
debt owed him by certain novelists. It is difficult to escape the feel- 
ing that Dostoevsky's art has helped to free imaginative literature 
from what Arthur Symons called *'the bondage of exteriority." 

At home, with the destruction of the old order, his popularity 
has naturally suffered a setback. In the beginning his prestige com- 
manded the respect of the new regime. He was second only to Tol- 
stoy in a list of authors to whom monuments were to be erected 
according to a decree signed by Lenin on July 30, 1918. In a speech 
made at the unveiling of Dostoevsky's statue in Moscow that same 
year he was declared to have been a harbinger of the revolution. 
Three years later the Commissar of Education gave him a place of 
honour among Russia's "great prophets." 

Before long, however, the encomia grew less frequent and a de- 
cidedly chilly tone crept into them. The fewest critics denied that he 
was a writer of major stature, but many of them found both his 
dogmas and his doubts counter-revolutionary, when they did not 
seem unreal. Soviet writers were warned against the influence of a 
novelist whose work exuded the poison of petty-bourgeois individ- 
ualism and who, furthermore, failed to see that evil in human beings 
was the consequence of a social system based on the exploitation 
of man by man. Maxim Gorky had long been inveighing against 
Dostoevsky as a decadent and a defamer of human nature. Speak- 
ing in 1934 at the First Congress of Soviet Writers, he laid at the 
novelist's door the fact that after the abortive revolution of 1905 
the intelligentsia had turned away from the radical movement. 

At the same time there was no lack of critics who attempted 
to find a place for Dostoevsky in the cultural heritage of communism. 
The enterprise was not entirely hopeless. He had been, after all, 
a disciple of Belinsky and a "Petrashevist." His apologists could 
point to the tonic strain of rebellion in his works, to the insight into 
the pathology of the soul of man under capitalism that they offer, to 
the fact that he abominated the bourgeoisie, to his high conception 
of Russia's world mission. It was possible to emphasize the part that 


socialism and revolution play in his work, and at worst pay him the 
tribute due a mighty adversary, whom all enemies of communism 
must plagiarize. Altogether, while the zigzags of the literary party 
line naturally affected comment on the novelist, a certain amount of 
freedom in interpreting his writings was tolerated. The 125th anni- 
versary of his birth did not go unnoticed. A dramatization of one of 
his tales was performed at the Moscow Art Theatre. Shortly after- 
wards several books appeared which tended to rehabilitate him in 
the eyes of the Soviet public. 

Then came a sudden reversal. These books were scathingly de- 
nounced in the press. One critic, quoting Gorky to the effect that 
Dostoevsky was "the evil genius" of the Russian people, declared 
that there was nothing more harmful than to try to impart "a pink 
glow" to this novelist's "reactionary countenance," the more so 
since he was widely read in the Soviet Union. 

As a matter of fact, long before this outburst, hostility toward 
Dostoevsky must have prevailed in influential quarters. This, no 
doubt, accounts for the neglect into which Dostoevsky studies fell 
after the middle thirties. But the preceding dozen years had been 
a period of fruitful research: it had witnessed the appearance of a 
new edition of his works, with all the apparatus of scholarship, as 
well as the publication of the bulk of his literary remains and of 
much factual material relating to his life and writings. 

Thus, a clearer view has been gained of this flagrantly inconsist- 
ent man,, this stubbornly ambiguous genius. Yet, as the present 
study should have indicated, ignorance of some intimate facts con- 
cerning him has not, and probably never will, be dispelled. He 
remains a Rembrandtesque figure, moulded by light struggling 
against an enveloping darkness. Before leaving him, it seems fitting 
to recall briefly those elements of his performance that touch us 
most dearly. 


Dostoevsky's work, like Shakespeare's, addresses itself to more 
than one level of intelligence. It engages the mature mind by its 
psychological wizardry and its wresding with fundamental moral 
and religious problems, but it also makes, by reason of its emotion- 
alism and melodrama, a more elementary appeal. 


He had a sense of dedication and he regarded his novels as his 
testament, but this did not blind him to the fact that he dared not 
be a bore. Though he took on the roles of both journalist and 
prophet, his chosen craft, his livelihood was the writing of fiction, 
and he used all the means he knew of holding the attention of his 
public. In his most serious works, perhaps partly because he pub- 
lished these long narratives in instalments, he employed without 
compunction, and without skill, all the stock in trade of the mystery 
tale, the roman-femlleton, the detective story. Perhaps, too, he felt 
that the heavy dialectical passages called for compensating thrills. 

Prodigality, excess, diffuseness, prolixity are the hall-mark of 
his writing, and he can be very clumsy; his work lacks finish, a 
sense of measure, the restraint in which Goethe saw the sign of the 
master. Packed with incidentals, complicated by sub-plots, thick 
with philosophical argument, burdened with rather footless pro- 
nouncements, his novels are nevertheless dynamic. Instead of the 
contemplative quietude, the provincial indolence in which so much 
nineteenth-century Russian fiction is bathed, theirs is a breathless 
sense of crisis, of upheaval, of drama. What assists this effect is 
that the main action occupies only a few days, with gaps equivalent 
to intermissions between acts. Dostoevsky's mastery of dialogue 
contributes further to the dramatic quality of his novels. The air 
of the theatre he thus brought into his work was thoroughly con- 
genial to him. In the scenes of pathos, of rapture, of nightmare, 
especially where the characters speak almost as naked souls, this 
indifferent and awkward stylist finds phrases that, in his own words, 
veritably "scratch the heart." 

Now and then one surprises him behaving as though he had the 
conscience of a realist. He tried to seize upon and cope with the 
passing moment, and liked to allude to matters of current interest, 
especially a sensational murder. The House of the Dead is to a large 
extent a piece of reportage. In the preface to The Brothers Kara- 
mazov he was careful to indicate that the action took place "thirteen 
years ago," that is in the middle sixties, shortly after the introduction 
of the jury system: the details of Dmitry's trial by jury occupy a 
generous section of the book. To avoid errors in the pages dealing 
with the trial, he made it his business to consult a lawyer. He begged 
the editor, who was reading his proof, to find out exactly what 


uniform school boys were wearing at the time and, if necessary, to 
make changes in the text. He had written earlier to an acquaintance 
who had much to do with children, asking for some examples of 
schoolboys' talk, habits, beliefs, misdemeanours. For the sake of the 
section on Father Zosima he read the lives of saints and other de- 
votional literature and, as will be remembered, visited Optina 
Pustyn, modelling the monastery in the novel largely on that retreat. 
He told his editor that in describing Ivan's hallucination he was 
not overstepping the bounds of possibility: physicians with whom 
he had discussed the matter had reassured him on this point. He 
said further that every item in Ivan's collection of atrocities com- 
mitted against children was based on reports of actual occurrences. 
All these things, he wrote, "happened, were, they are printed in 
newspapers, and I can show where — I have invented nothing." 

The realist reveals himself in other ways than in concern for faith- 
fulness of representation. More than once the tale is related not by 
the omniscient author, but by a participant in the action or an 
innocent bystander who is an eyewitness of some of the events and 
has hearsay knowledge of others. Dostoevsky was skilful in telling 
the story in the first person, but rather awkward in his use of what 
Henry James called "the impersonal author's concrete deputy.'* 
In employing both devices, however, it is clear that his intention 
was to enhance the verisimilitude of the account. The very texture 
of his writing, coarse and loose as it is, suits a workaday naturalism. 
The total absence of metaphor is noteworthy. Here is none of the 
perfection of phrasing that attracts attention to itself and reminds the 
reader that he has to do with a literary work. It is chiefly because 
of extreme slovenliness, concealed to some extent in translation, that 
his style is obtrusive. In a literature the tone of which had from 
the first been set by the gentry, he established the language of the 
democratic middle class. 

It would be erroneous, however, to place Dostoevsky within the 
realistic tradition. Not infrequently he failed to live up to his own 
precept that a writer must know "down to the last detail" the milieu 
he is depicting. He was not the shrewd observer, the historian deal- 
ing with things as they are, that he sometimes fancied himself to be. 
His task was not to set down his impressions of the shifting world 
as it flowed past him. The run of average experience seen with the 


eye of common sense— the sort of thing that the British noveHst 
is adept at — is incommensurate with the substance of his novels. 
''What to most people verges on the fantastic and exceptional," he 
wrote to Strakhov, "is for me sometimes the very essence of the 
real." It will be remembered that he dated his birth as a writer from 
a moment of "vision." He had a predilection for prosy, shabby 
backgrounds, but he treated them with a kind of romantic gusto, 
reminiscent of Versilov's liking for the tavern where "it's all so 
vulgar and prosaic that it borders on the fantastic." He spoke of 
himself, and truly, as a reahst in a higher sense. His business, he 
said, was to explore "all the depths of the human soul." 

To this task he brought rare insight and intuition. His characters 
— excluding, of course, the conventional caricatures and lay figures 
— are for the most part people in whom the ordinary impulses are 
exaggerated, sometimes perverted, and who are subjected to some 
overwhelming strain. They are given to ecstasies and agonies, they 
go to extremes intellectually, they are apt to want integration and 
stabihty. These men and women are drawn with an extraordinary 
understanding of the ambivalence which latterly has been recog- 
nized as fundamental to human nature, with an appreciation of the 
role that the subconscious plays in shaping attitudes and behaviour, 
of the function of the dream in disclosing hidden wishes and dreads. 
The world he imagined would have been a different place, if so many 
people in it did not behave compulsively, love where they hate and 
hate where they love, suck pleasure out of pain, show themselves 
at once noble and base. It suggests a conception of the psyche as a 
complex of responses subtler and more ambiguous, less subject to 
the control of reason than had been generally believed. Dostoevsky 
thus anticipated findings of later students of the mind. The novelist, 
who came after him could scarcely have taken their readers on such 
revealing journeys if they had not travelled along the passages that 
he had tunnelled out. 

Behind the conflicting impulses and unstable emotions, far below 
the play of the intelligence, at the very core of the personality, per- 
haps synonymous with it, there is the will. It manifests itself in 
freedom of choice, man's dearest possession, without which life is 
unendurable. This view, which is set forth in "The Notes from the 
Underground" and implicitly denied by the Grand Inquisitor. 


Dostoevsky accepted, but with an important proviso. Granted that 
it is an evil thing, even for ends ostensibly just, reasonable, advan- 
tageous to the individual, to coerce or bribe the will, but woe to it 
when it is an instrument of unbridled self-indulgence and intran- 
sigent self-regard! The supreme act of the will is free surrender in 
love. Only by losing itself in God can it find itself. With Dostoevsky, 
psychology abutted on religion. 

He was anything but a systematic thinker, and he thought with 
his viscera. Yet beating like a pulse in each of his books is some 
dominant idea, some problem of the moral or religious order. This 
is not a matter of dispassionate intellection, but rather in the nature 
of what is called in A Raw Youth "idea-feelings." Arising from and 
finding issue in emotion, they owe some of their power to the 
warmth and urgency of the human voice that gives them utterance. 

His preoccupation with ideas lends some of his characters a sym- 
bolic quality, which is accentuated by their relation to one another. 
Nevertheless for the most part they possess a compelling reahty, 
having the solidity and opacity of men and women who cast a 
shadow. The authority with which they are portrayed may be due 
to the fact that in exploring "all the depths of the human soul" 
Dostoevsky proceeded both by observation of his fellows and by 
pitiless introspection. His performance was not a flight from him- 
self, as is the case with some artists, but a kind of amor fati, a 
hugging of his destiny. In his novels one finds, however veiled, dis- 
torted or transfigured, the projection of the forces and potentialities 
within himself, the embodiment of his own fears and desires, his 
loves and his hates, his rebelhon and his submission. Vital to an 
understanding of his work is the fact that it was the theatre of his 
own inner conflict. 

The struggle, one ventures, was between his sceptical intellect 
and his urgent will-to-believe, between his ugly impulses and his 
desire to cling to the image of moral perfection. He was a man who 
felt intensely and, though capable of compromise in practical affairs, 
exalted the extremist, the intransigent, the one who knows no limits 
in his pursuit of good or evil. Unable to face stoically a purposeless, 
godless world, he trampled upon whatever threatened his faith. 
If, as has been truly said of D. H. Lawrence, he "turned his intel- 
lect into a giant slave of his intuitions," the slave was in perpetual 


rebellion. He might revile, he might degrade his rational member, 
but he could not subdue it. 


In the climactic scene which ends with Ivan Karamazov reciting 
his fantasy, 'The Grand Inquisitor," he asks Alyosha what it is that 
"during a momentary halt in a tavern" Russian boys talk about. 
And he answers himself: "Of the universal questions, nothing else: 
is there a God? Is there immortality? And those who do not believe 
in God talk of socialism or anarchism, of the transformation of all 
mankind according to a new pattern, so that, what the devil, it all 
comes to the same, they're the same questions tackled from the 
other end." 

There is a large group of people in this age who are apt to tackle 
these problems "from the other end" and to reject some of Dosto- 
evsky's solutions. Particularly for the secular-minded, much in his 
thinking impairs a full response to his work. His fictions move 
within the sphere of religion, a religion strongly tinged with nation- 
alism and bound up with the idea of Russia's Messianic mission. 
They are, too, a vehicle for his aberrations and obsessive prejudices, 
bizarre or worse. It was not partiality for free enterprise that made 
him inveigh endlessly against what he called socialism. He abhorred 
it because he saw its adherents as atheists, dedicated to a mechanistic 
philosophy and so determined to devise a rational, planned, and 
inevitably dehumanizing society. What will span the "echoing 
straits" between men, between nations? The question was one of his 
chief preoccupations. By way of an answer, intended as an alter- 
native to the "socialist" solution, he could offer only a beatific 
vision: a polity transfigured into a universal Church, innocent of 
all coercion and authority, in effect the City of God. 

One can share Dostoevsky's distrust of scientific control as a 
means of achieving the good society. One can readily sympathize, 
too, with his anguish at the thought of life being a ceaseless flux, 
devoid of meaning and purpose, yet fail to see eye to eye with him 
in regard to the consequences of disbelief. "How is man going to 
be good without God?" cries Dmitry Karamazov. The thesis that 
morality hangs upon belief in God and immortality is indeed the 


burden of Dostoevsky's mature work. At the mid-century Dmitry's 
cry is not echoed from the pulpit alone. Yet there are those who re- 
tort, and with reason: has man been better with God than without 
Him? One recalls a passage from Tolstoy's Confession, a work com- 
posed at the very time when The Brothers Karamazov was being 
written: "Then and now the pubHc profession and confession of 
Orthodoxy was chiefly met with among people who were dull and 
cruel and who considered themselves very important. Ability, 
honesty, reliability, good nature and moral conduct were more 
often met with among unbelievers." 

By his exaltation of suffering Dostoevsky places another stumb- 
ling-block in the reader's path. The difficulty is that he failed to 
recognize the distinction that Kierkegaard drew between "tribula- 
tions" and "temptations": on the one hand, suffering which is due 
to external causes and which can and should be eliminated, and on 
the other, unavoidable suffering which results from a situation in- 
volving a moral choice. 

Above all, one remembers against him his alliance with the forces 
of bigotry and oppression. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged 
that his novels affirm, if not without ambiguity, the basic humane 
values which men can only neglect to their grave hurt. The world 
of his imagination centres upon the integrity and inviolability of the 
individual self, and the longing for human fellowship is of the tissue 
of his work. These stories, these novels were composed by a man 
who denied the competence of science to legislate for a being only 
partly within the natural order, and who celebrated "living life" as 
against everything that smacked of the mechanical and the cerebral. 
He was aware of, indeed, he exaggerated, the burdens and dangers 
of freedom. Hence his dire predictions of what would happen if the 
religious sanction of morality collapsed. Yet with his "prin- 
cipal" mind — it will be recalled that Aglaia in The Idiot attributes 
to everyone a "principal" mind and a subordinate one — he knew 
that freedom is the essence of man's humanity. The idea dominates 
and shapes some of his most pregnant writing. 

Rebellion both frightens and fascinates him. In his attitude to- 
ward the revolutionary complex he is like Raskolnikov, dreaming 
that he was repeatedly murdering the old harpy, who kept laugh- 
ing at him, refusing to be killed. His orthodoxy, both political and 


religious, is highly suspect. While fighting on the side of the angels 
he is too persuasively the devil's advocate. The noveHst's moral 
maximalism, with its raptures and its agonies, is inimical to all 
reformist and middle-of-the-road thinking. Gorky rejoiced in 
Dostoevsky's vogue abroad, believing that this "poisonous talent" 
would weaken the complacency of the Western middle class. 
No radical has poured out more venom upon the solid bourgeois 
than this reactionary. No one has shown more effectively the miseries 
of indigence and the way in which a man's soul may be mutilated 
under oppression. He was himself, after all, a penniless intellectual, 
alienated from the people whom he idealized, having no real bond 
with the upholders of the ancestral order. His professions of loyalty 
to the status quo notwithstanding, his novels point to disorder and 
corruption behind the social facade, suggesting impermanence and 
upheaval. Few novelists have so relentlessly explored man's capa- 
city for cruelty and depravity, and while his contemporaries, 
impressed with the advance of science and technology, spoke con- 
fidently of progress, he was haunted by visions of wars and revolu- 
tions, disintegration and collapse. His work speaks with special 
authority to an age that has supped on horrors and that has been 
well named one of anxiety. 

Whatever course history may take, a large part of Dostoevsky's 
work, so warm with compassion, so crowded with people inwardly 
seen, powerfully projected, so big with questionings, will trouble 
the blood, kindle the imagination, move the mind toward a concern 
with ultimate things. His major novels should continue to provide 
the reader with the sense of having glimpsed the human drama at 
its most intense, of having shared in the enterprise to which Dosto- 
evsky at an early age promised to devote his life: the unravelling 
of the mystery of man. 



The most complete and textually reliable edition of Dostoevsky's writings 
is that issued in Moscow in 1926-30. Its scholarly apparatus comprises 
variant readings, lists of the editions which appeared during the novelist's 
lifetime, and information on the manuscripts extant, including preliminary 
drafts and notes. The amply annotated Soviet edition begun in 1956 con- 
tains his fiction only. The quotations from the novels and stories are taken 
from Constance Garnett's translation, first published in London, 1912-20, 
in twelve volumes, each separately titled. In every instance the quoted pas- 
sages have been collated with the original and in some cases altered. The 
Modern Library edition of The Possessed New York, 1936, includes the 
suppressed chapter of the novel, translated by the present writer. He has 
revised the Garnett translation of The Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot. 
which the Limited Editions Club, New York, brought out in 1933 and 1956 
respectively; the novel mentioned first was reprinted in 1949 by The Heri- 
tage Press, New York. A rendering of Crime and Punishment, by Jessie 
Coulson, appeared in 1951. David Magarshack's retranslation of that novel 
and of The Possessed Cunder the title The Devils) came out in 1953, and of 
The Idiot in 1956. With the publication of The Diary of a Writer. New 
York 1949, 2 v., and of Winter Notes on Summer Impressions. New York 
1955, the bulk of Dostoevsky's non-fictional work has become available in 

Only the first three of the projected four volumes of a complete Soviet 
edition of Dostoevsky's letters have been published so far. With its abun- 
dant notes, it is an indispensable repository of data on our author. The 
first volume of a French translation of this work appeared in Paris in 1949. 
Dostoevsky's letters to his wife were published separately in 1926; an Eng- 
lish translation of them was brought out in 1930. There are two selections 
from the novelist's correspondence: Letters of F. M. Dostoevsky to His 
Family and Friends, New York 1914; Dostoevsky: Letters and Reminiscen- 
ces. New York 1923. 

Aside from The House of the Dead, which is thinly disguised autobio- 
graphy, and certain passages in The Diary of a Writer, Dostoevsky left no 
account of his works and days. Much of the testimony of his contempor- 
aries went into the making of his first biography, published in 1883. There- 
after some additional matter of no little weight found its way into print, 
but it was only in the first two decades of the Soviet period that numerous 
publications released a flood of light on the subject. In 1956 a collection of 
hitherto unknown Dostoevsky texts was announced for publication in the 
near future as a volume in the series entitled Literaturnoe nasledstvo. A 
list of reminiscences about Dostoevsky is contained in Seminari po Dosto- 



evskomu. edited by Grossman, Moscow 1922. The latter's Zhizn i trudy 
Dostoevskovo, Moscow 1935, is a useful compilation in the nature of a 
strictly factual chronological outline of the novelist's life. 

To the devotion and industry of his widow we owe a comprehensive cata- 
logue of Dostoevskiana: Bibliograficheski ukazatel sochineni i proizvedeni 
iskusstva, otnosyashchikhsya k zhizni i deyatelnosti F. M. Dostoyevskovo: 
J 846-1 903, St. Petersburg 1906. A sequel to this Bibliography, covering the 
years 1903-23, is to be found in v. 2 of Dostoevsky; statyi i materialy, edited 
by Dolinin, and another list, bringing the record to 1930, is contained in v. 
13 of the first of the Soviet editions of Dostoevsky's works mentioned above. 
Komarovich surveyed the literature on Dostoevsky in Dostoevsky: sovrem- 
ennye problemy istoriko-literaturnovo izucheniya, Leningrad 1925, and 
summed up later research in Neue Probleme der Dostojewskij-Forschung: 
1925-30 (Zeitschrift fiir clavische Philologie. Leipzig 1933-34 v. X-XI). Much 
non-Russian Dostoevsky literature is noted in Romein, Dostjewskij in de 
Westersche kritiek, Haarlem 1924; Minssen, Die franzosische Kritik und 
Dostojewskij, Hamburg 1933; Helen Muchnic, Dostoevsky's English Repu- 
tation, Northampton, Mass. 1939. 

Mme. Dostoevsky was instrumental in founding the department of the 
Moscow Historical Museum devoted to the manuscripts and relics of her 
husband. This material has been transferred to the Dostoevsky Museum, 
located in the novelist's childhood home, the apartment in the wing of the 
Mariinsky Hospital for the Poor, now the Hospital for Social Diseases. 
There are, too, Dostoevsky museums at Staraya Russa and at Darovoye, 
where the novelist spent his summers as a boy. Dostoevsky mss. are also 
kept in the Central Archives, Moscow, the Institute of Russian Literature 
attached to the Academy of Sciences, Leningrad, and the Leningrad Public 


Abbreviations and symbols for titles frequently cited: 

A Dostoevsky, Polnoe sobranie khudozhestvennykh proizvedeni, Mos- 
cow-Leningrad 1926-30, 13 V. 

AD The Diary of Dostoevsky's wife, New York, 1928: tr. of Dnevnik 
A. G. Dostoevskoi, 1867 g., Moscow 1923. 

AN A. G. Dostoevskaya, Vospominaniya, Moscow 1925. 

Die Lebenserrinnerungen der Gattin Dostojewskis, Miinchen 
1925, is a complete German translation of this volume. Vospomin- 
aniya A. G. Dostoevskoi: F. M. Dostoevsky v 1871-2 gg., in 
Dolinin, ed., Dostoevsky: statyi i materialy, v. 1, contains some 
matter not included in Mme. Dostoevsky's reminiscences as 
issued in book form. 

AV A. M. Dostoevsky, Vospominaniya, Leningrad 1930. 

B O. Miller and N. Strakhov, eds., Biografiya, pisma i zametki iz zap- 
isnoi knizhki Dostoevskovo, St. Petersburg 1883; this volume, 
which is the first attempt at a biography of the novelist, consists 
of three separately paged sections; the last two are indicated by 
Roman numerals following the page reference. 


BK Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, tr. by Constance Garnett, 
New York 1929. 

BY Byloe. Petrograd. 

CP Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, tr. by Constance Garnett, New 
York 1916. 

D Dostoevsky — all spellings and grammatical cases. 

DO Dolinin, ed., Dostoevsky: statyi i materialy, Petrograd 1922-24, 2 v. 

DP Dostoevsky, Pisma, Moscow-Leningrad 1928-34, v. 1-3. 

DT Dostoevsky and Turgenev, Perepiska, Leningrad 1928. 

GD Grossman, ed., Dostoevsky na zhiznennom puti, Moscow 1928, v, 1. 

GL Grigorovich, Literaturnye vospominaniya, Leningrad 1928. 

GM Golos minuvshevo, Moscow. 

GS Grossman, Seminari po Dostoevskomu, Moscow 1922; some of the 
contents are reprinted from a work edited by the same author: 
Tvorchestvo Dostoevskovo, 1821-1881-1921, Odessa 1921. 

HD Dostoevsky, The House of the Dead, tr, by Constance Garnett, New 
York 1923. 

HT An honest thief and other stories, tr. by Constance Garnett, New 

York 1919. 

ID The Idiot, tr. by Constance Garnett, New York 1917. 

IS Jstoricheski vestnik, St. Petersburg. 

K S. S. Koteliansky, ed., Dostoevsky portrayed by his wife: the diary and 
reminiscences of Mme. Dostoevsky, New York 1926. 

KA Krasnyi arkhiv, Moscow. 

KN Krasnaya nov, Moscow. 

L. Leningrad (in imprint). 

LD Aimee (Lubov) Dostoevskaya, Fyodor Dostoeyevsky, a study, Lon- 
don 1921; first published in German: Dostojewski geschildert 
von seiner Tochter, A. Dostojewski, Erlenbach-Ziirich 1920. 

lit. literaturnyi (various forms of the adjective). 

LM Literaturnaya my si, Petrograd. 

M. Moscow (in imprint). 

NV Novoye vremya, St. Petersburg. 

P. St. Petersburg or Petrograd (in imprint). 

Pa. Paris (in imprint). 

PO F. M. Dostoevsky, The Possessed, tr. by Constance Garnett, New 
York 1916. 

PR Pcchat i revolutziya, Moscow. 

RS Russkaya starina, St. Petersburg. 

RV Russky vestnik, Moscow. 

RY Dostoevsky, A Raw Youth, tr. by Constance Garnett, New York 1916, 


SL Slavia, Prague. 

SO Sibirskie ogni, Novonikolaevsk. 

sobr. sobranie. 

soch. sochinenie. 

SP Shchegolev, ed., Pctrashevtzy, sbomik materialov, Moscow 1926-28, 
3 V. 

U Dostoevsky, Die Urgestalt der Briider Karamasoff: Dostojewskis 
Quellen, Entwiirfe und Fragmente, mit einer einleitenden Studie 
von Sigm. Freud, Munich 1928. 

VE Vestnik Yevropy. St. Petersburg. 

VF Vo prosy filosofii i psihologii, Moscow. 

vosp. vospominaniya. 

WN Dostoevsky, White Nights and Other Stories, tr. by Constance Garn- 
nett. New York 1918. 

WR Wrangel, Vospominaniya o Dostoevskom v Sibiri, St. Petersburg 1912. 

YA Yanovsky, Vospominaniya o Dostoevskom, in Russky vestnik, Mos- 
cow 1885, V. 176. 

Z Zamotin, F. M. Dostoevsky v russkoi kritike, Warsaw 1913, v. 1 (no 
more published). 

ZS Zeitschrift fiir slavische Philologie, Leipzig. 

Note: A number standing alone refers to a letter in Dostoevsky, Pisma, 
Moscow 1928-34, v. 1-3; in these volumes, which cover the years 1832 to 
1877, the letters are numbered continuously. 


i: GS 66 (tr.: K 268); RY 107; B 5-6; BK 43; HD 214; BK 14, 307; 523. 
ii: AV ch. 1, passim; GD 36; 3; Grossman, Put D., L. 1924, 27. Lyubimov, 

K voprosu o genealogii D., in DO v. 2; AV 409-10; Volotzkoi, Khron- 

ika roda D., M. 1933; Arsenyev, K proiskhozh deniyu D., in Novik, 

Athens 1934, 2. 
iii: AV ch. 1; A v. 4, 51; 383; AV 364; A v. 12, 224; B 119 111; GD 26; 

AV 403; A V. 11, 139; AV 91; Grossman, Put D., 19, DO v. 2, 393, 
iv: GD 25, 31-42; A v. 1, 517-18; Dnevnik pisatelya, Feb. 1876, ch. 1 (tr. 

The peasant Marey in HT); PO 29; Nechayeva, V semye i usadbe D., 

M. 1939. 


GD ch. 4-9. 

i: W 145; AV 63-77; RY 1 12-15, 459; A v. 4, 56. 

ii: AV 77-80; A v. 11, 168-70. 

iii: AV 365-77. 


iv: B 35-45; Maksimovsky, Istor. ocherk razvitiya Glavnovo inzhenernovo 
uchilishcha, P. 1869; RS 1900, v. 103, 327; GL 43-4, 58; Trutovsky. 
Vosp. o D., in Shchukinsky sbornik. M. 1902, v. 1, and in Russkoye 
obozrenie. P.. 1893, 1. 


i: 10, 12; Alekseyev, Ranni drug F.M.D., Odessa, 1921; Prokhorov, Die 
Bruder D. und Sidlovskij, in ZS 1930, 3/4; 16; Russki arkiv. 1907, 1, 
381; ZS 1930, 3/4,319; 10. 16, 14. 

ii: 11 AV 378-81; 13; DP v. 1, 470; AV 87-8, 109; Stonov, Seltzo Darovoye, 
in Krasnaya niva. M. 1926, No. 16; Nechayeva, Poyezdka v Darovoye, 
in Novyi mir, M. 1926, 3; AV 413-14; 14; AV 375; 12; WR 171; 14. 

iii: AV 381; Prokhorov, Pochemu D. vyshel v otstavku? in Lit.-khud. 
shorn. Krasnoi panoramy, L. 1929, 12; 14, 17, 596, 18; B 35, 41; AV 
125-43; 19;GD72-3;B 50-1. 


i: B 49-53; 21-27; AV 384-96; 26; v. 1, 477. 

ii: 27-8; A v. 12, 30-3; GL ch. 7; Panayev, Lit. vosp., L. 1928, 502-03; 

Annenkov, Vosp., L. 1928, 447-50; Turgenev, Soch.. P. 1898, v. 12, 

iii: 29-31: Sollogub, Vosp. in IS 1886, v. 24, 561-62; 32. 
iv: 33, 36-40; Rammelmeyer, D. Begegnis mit Belinskij, in ZS v. 21. 
V. 41, Panayeva, Vosp., L. 1927, 196-99; Nekrasov, Kamennoye serdtze. in 

his Tonki chelovek, M. 1928; Panayev, Sobr, soch., M. 1912, v. 5, 7; 

Yezhemes. lit. pri. k Nive, P. 1901, 11, 392-93; Chukovsky, D. / pley- 

ada Belinskovo, in his Nekrasov, L. 1926; Ashevsky, D. i Belinskx, in 

Mir Bozhi F. 1904, I. 


i: 41; GL 147-50; YA 801; A v. 11, 135; 42, 44-7. 

ii: 34; YA 32,78; RY 28-9. 

iii: GL 139-40; Yazykov, Pismo v redaktziyu, in NV Mar. 2, 1881. no. 
1799, 2; Yanovsky, Bolezn F. M. D., in NV Feb. 24, 1881, no. 1793; 
Trutovsky, Vosp. o D., in Shchuk. sbornik, M. 1902, v. 1; Vs. Solovyov, 
Vosp. OD., in IS 1881, 3-4; The Insulted and Injured, tr. by C. Garnett, 
London 1915, 49; 78, 398; Neznakometz (pseud, of A. S. Suvorin), 
Nedelnye ocherki i kartinki: O pokoinoni, in NV Feb. 1, 1881. no. 


1771, 2-3; DO v. 2, 393; B 141, ftn.; Neufeld, D.: Skizze zu einer 
Psychoanalyse, Leipzig 1923; Burchell, D. and the Sense of Guilt, in 
Psychoanalytic Review, Albany 1930, v. 17; Amenitzky and Segalov, 
Bolezn D. in Nauchnoye slovo, M. 1929, 4; Freud, D. und die Vater- 
totung, in U, (tr. in The Realist. London July 1929, and in Partisan 
Review. New York Fall 1945); Carr, Was D. an epileptic? in Slav- 
onic Review. London 1930, v, 9; Squires, F. D.. in Psychoanalytic 
Review, 1937, 10. 


i: GD 154; Semevsky, Butashevich-Petrashevsky, M. 1922; GM 1915, 11 
37; SP V. 3, 200; Leikina, Petrashevtzy. M. 1924, 25; SP v. 1, 169 
RS 1872, V. 6, 84; Rourke, The Trumpets of Jubilee, New York 1927 
SP V. 2, 153; GM 1913, 4, 114; GM 1916, 4, 189-90; Considerant, Le 
socialisme devant le vieux monde. suivi de Jesus-Christ devant les con- 
seils de guerre, par Victor Meunier, Pa. 1848; SP v. 1, 115-17; GM 
1915, 11, 42-3; 316; DO v. 2, 380-87. Also GD ch. 13; Komarovich, 
Yunost D. in BY 1924, 23; Chulkov, D. i utopicheski sotzialism, in 
Katorga i ssylka. M. 1929, no. 51/52. 

ii: GM 1915, 12, 44; KA 1931, 46, 165-67; D. i petrashevtzy in DO v. 1; 
Leikina, Petrashevetz Speshnev, in BY 1924, v. 25; Dclo petrash- 
evtzev.M. 1937-51, 3 v. (see Index in v. 3, s.v.D.); Dolinin, D. ^r^J/ pet- 
rashevtzcv, in Zvenya, 6; Belchikov, D. v protzesse petrashevtzev, M. 

iii: YA 815-17; 51-54. 

iv: YA 809; AV 188. 


i: Semevsky, Sledstviye i sud po delu petrashevtzev, in Russkie zapiski. P. 

1916, 9-11; SP V. 1, 165-67; Shchegolev, Alekseyevsky Ravelin, M. 

1929; GM 1915, 11, 24-9, and 12, 42-3; 52-5; SP v. 3, 200-07; 55-56. 
ii: SP V. 1, 201; Russkie zapiski. P. 1916, 11, 33-4; 57; SP v. 3, 207-08, 328. 

iii: SP V. 1, sec. 3; 58; B, 117-22; Russkie zapiski, P. 1916, 11, 44-5, A v. 

11, 138; CP 146; ID 57; GD 192-93. 
iv: 58, 60; GD p. 197, 199. 


i: Poor Folk, tr. by L Milman, Boston 1894, XIV; Z 8; Boehm, Pervyye 
shagi D., in SL 1933, 1/2; Cizevskyi, K probleme dvoinika, in Boehm, 
ed., OD., sbornik statei, Prague 1929, v. 1; Vinogradov, 5"/// peter- 
burskoi poemy Dvoinik, in DO v. 1; Avanesov, D. v rabote nad Dvoin- 


ikom. in Piksanov, ed., Tvorcheskaya istoriya, M. 1927; Otto Rank, 
Der Do ppel ganger, Leipzig 1925; Boehm, Skupoi rytzar Pushkina v 
tvorchestve D., in Russki Inst. v. Prage, Pushkinski sbornik, Prague 
1929; Trubeckoj, The Style of "Poor Folk" and "The Double," in 
Amer. Slavic and East Europ. Review, 1948, 4. 

ii: Petersburgskaya Letopis, in A v. 13; (tr. Petersburger Trdume, in Die 
Wcisse Blatter, Zurich 1918); Komarovich, Peterburgskie felyetony 
D., in Oksntian, ed., Felyetony sorokovykh godov, L. 1930; Bochm, 
Dramatizatziya sna, in Boehm, ed., O. D., sbornik statei, Prague 
1929, V. 1. 

iii: A V. 2, 473-78; Bclchikov, Kak pisal romany D., in PR 1928, 2; A v. 
2, 480-83. 

iv: Boehm, Gogol i Pushkin v tvorchestve D., in SL 1928, 7; Grossmann, 
Hoffmann, Balzac. D., in Sofiya, M. 1914, 5; YA 806-07; 44; Petcr- 
burgskaya letopis, in A v. 13, esp. 30-32; A v. 13, 156; WN 198; See 
also Antziferov, Peterburg D., P. 1923; Passage, D. the Adapter 
Chapel Hill, N.C. 1954. 


i: 60; B 125-27; A v. 11, 10; Frantzeva, Vosp., in IS 1888, v. 32, 358-60; 
Grossman, Grazdanskaya smert D., in Liter, nasledstvo, lljlA. 

ii: Torkarzewski, Siedem lat katorgi, Warsaw 1918; Khranevich, D. po 
vosp. ssylnovo polyaka, in RS 1910, v. 141; Brailovsky, D. v Omskoi 
katorge i polyaki, in IS 1908, v. 112; GS 55; 60. 

iii: Nikolayevsky, Tovarishchi D. po katorge, in IS 1898, v. 71; Vyatkin, 
D. V. Omskoi katorge, in SO 1925, 1; DP v. 1, 166; 60; 61; Cherevin, 
Polk, de Grave i D., in RS 1889, 2; 60; BK 638; 61; BK 824; GS 55. 

iv: IS 1895, 450; 60, 62-6; Skandin, D. v Scmipalatinske, in IS 1903, 9; 
Gerasimov, D. v. Scmipalatinske, in SO 1924, 4, 1926, 3; Gerasimov, 
Gde zhe otbyval D. katorgu? SO 1927, 4; Sytina, Vosp. o D., in IS 
1885, V. 19; WR 17-8; Stackenschneider, Dnevnik i zapiski, M. 1934, 

v: RS 1910, V. 141, 610; B 17-20, 11; D., Das politische Gedicht auf die 
europdische Ereignisse von 1854, Munchen 1920; 75; A v. 11, 138; 
WR. 18-38; Smith and Isotoff, The Abnormal from within, in Psycho- 
anal. Review, v. 22. 


i: WR 38-9, 50-3, 63-7; B 271; Feoktistov, Propavshie pisma D., in SO 

1928, 3-4;68-9, 71,74, 76, 79. 
ii:78, 80;DPv. 1,527-30. 
iii: 81-2; Polnoye sobr. zakonov, P. 1856, v. 31, no. 30877; 84, 83, 86-8, 




i: 93-6, 98-101,75, 102-08. 

ii: WR 83-4; 105-11; 451, 114, 112, 115-19; Lit. nash., 22/24, 729. 
iii: 120, 133. 

iv: 121-28, 130-32, 134-43; GL 422; Olisov, K prebyvaniyu D. v g. Tveri, 
inKA 1923,4. 


i: 61; Kozmin, Bratya D., i prokl. Molodaya Rossiya, in PR 1929, 2-3; 140; 
Dolinin, K tzenzurnoi istorii pervykh dvukh zhurnalov D., in DO v. 
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ii: B 213; Trudy Pubi Biblioteki SSSR, M. 1934, v. 3, 106; B 175, 213-14; 
ID 224-25. 

iii: B 171; IS 1901, v. 86, 1032; DP v. 2, 412; B 173-74; 122; Schubert, 
Mo\a zhizn, in Yczhegodnik imperat. teatrov, P. 1911-12, 145-47. 

iv: A V. 13, 350-51; DO v. 1, 359-68; GS 71; 75, 127-28; HD, 187, 76-7, 282; 
Z ch. 2; D., Pervaya zapisnaya knizhka, in Zvenya, 6. 


i: RY 464; 152; Herzen, Polnoe sobr. soch., P. 1920, v. 15, 354; 157; B 

ii: Dolinin, K tzenzurnoi istorii zhurnalov D., in DO v. 2; AV 294-95; B 

264; DT 58-60; 168, 171-74; Guralnik, Sovr. v borbe s zhurnalami D., 

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1928 (tr.: Suslova, D. ewige Freundin, Miinchen 1931). 
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Put D.. L. 1924, ch. 6; LD ch. 10. 


181; B 265-69; DT 87; 182-83; GS 57; 294, 185-95, 197-98, 200-01; 
Vysheslavtzev, D. o lubvi i bessmertii in Sovr. zapiski, Pa. 1932, v. 50 
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ii: 297, 214-15, 203, 221; AV 299; 189, 196, 207-13, 217-21; B 269-76; 
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iii: Skaftymov, Zapiski iz podpolya sredi publitzistiki, D., in SL 1929, 8; 
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i: AV 301; 221-22; DP v. 1, 402; Prokhorov, Nerazvernuvshisya roman D., 

in Zvenya, 6. 
ii: Kovalevskaya, Vosp. i pisma. M. 1951; 212; Streich, D. i syostry Korvin- 

Krukovskie, M. 1931; 240; 245; K 24; Slonim, Tri lyubvi D., New 

York 1953, 309. 
iii: 235, 226-27; DP v. 2, 225-26; 245, 386, 361, 228, 221-22; S 117; 228-31; 

A V. 12, 208; DT 193; AN 218; 232-33, 235-37, 318, 222; Suslova, 

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i: 241; Iz arkhiva D. Prestupleniye i nakazaniye, neizd. mater., M. 1931; 
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ii: 227, 234, 304; Iz arkhiva D. Prestuplenie i nakazanie, 66; A v. 5, 61; 
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i: DP V. 2, 26; AD; 265; Herzen, Polnoe sobr. soch.. P. 1922, v. 18, 40; 
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ii: 266-77; DP v. 2, 250, 

iii: 278-79. 

iv: AD 237-38; 279; Russki arkhiv, M. 1902, 9, 148-49; Russkoe obozrenie. 
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v: AD 404; AN 112; ID 410; 279-80, 284; James Guillaume, L' Internation- 
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296, 302, 310-12; AN 124-28; 314-19. 
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323-24; Z 123; AN 126; 322, 321-28, 331; AN 125-28; Schurig, D. in 
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LD 161, 332; DP v. 2, 458; 330; AV 335-37; 331, 339; AV 338-43; 332-36; 
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iv: DP V. 2, 213; 343, 345-46, 340; DP v. 2, 283; 354-62; Komarovich, 
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v: 348, 321, 353, 376, 361-62, 364-65, 369, 372, 374-75, 383-84, 386, 144, 
373; AN 135; 380-82; RY 278; 371, 387-93; AN 135-39. 


i: AN 144-46; DO v. 1, 483; AN 146-54, 170-72; BK 407; 394; AN 154-55; 
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ii: Kozmin, ed., Nechayev i nechayevtzy. M. 1931; AN 130; 345; Borba 
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i: 385, 394, 351; AN 227; AV 348; 339, 428-31; AN 174-79; A v. 13. 580- 
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iii: Nachalo, P. 1922, 2, 229; RY 208, 54; 487; DP v. 3, 333-35; Setschkareff, 
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i: 524; Junge, Vosp., M. 1913, xiii; 571, 488, 490, 510, 537, 610; LD 196- 
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iii: A V. 11, 425; Dolinin, ed., Novyi variant Krotkoi, in DO, v. 2; William 
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i: 612, 545, 611; B 329-31, 11; 587-88, 594, 596; Vestnik vospitaniya, M. 
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iii: U 551-613; Modzalevsky, D. o "Br. Karamazovykh," neizdannye pisma. 
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i: B 359, 111; BK 628; U 244, 320; F.M.D., materialy i izsledovaniya, pod 
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Aksakov, I. S., 369 
Alexander I, 395 
Alexander II, 362-3, 400 
Alexander III, 362 
Alexey (Alyosha), Dostoevsky's in- 
fant son, 321, 356-7 

Crime and Punishment, 
205-17, 224, 227, 251, 
308, 376, 381, 387 

Crocodile, The, 186 






Bakunin, Michael, 244, 285 
Balzac, 27, 37, 100 
Beketov brothers, the, 52-3 
Belinsky, V. G., 41-2, 44, 48-51, 59, 

70, 79, 151, 208, 236, 240-1, 243, 

278-9, 288, 313-4,403 
Bobok, 312, 349 
Brothers Karamazov, The, 117, 281, 

302, 333, 341, 355-61, 367, 

370-1, 405-6, 410 
Brown, Marfa, 194-6 

Carus, C. G.. 122 

Chermashnya, village, 10, 31, 338 

Chernyshevsky, N. G., 152, 154-5, 

187, 190, 313 
Christmas Tree and a Wedding, A, 

96, 301 
Confessions of an English Opium- 

Eater, The, 11 
Corneille, 28 

Danilevsky, N. Y., 282 
Darovoye, village, 9-11, 337-8 
"Dead Christ," 242, 264 
Dickens, Charles, 118, 256, 335, 361 
Divine Comedy, The, 154 
Dostoevskaya, Anna Grigoryevna 

(Anya), 220-39, 241-2, 247-55, 

262-77, 280-4, 299, 300, 304, 306, 

311, 315, 317, 319-20, 334-6, 

356-61, 365, 388, 396-9 
Dostoevskaya, Emilia Fyodorovna, 

34, 54, 184, 204, 222, 224, 227-8, 

235, 251, 262 
Dostoevskaya, Lubov (Luba, Aimee), 

Dostoevskaya, Marya Dmitrievna 

(Masha), 126-42, 145, 148-9, 

158-9, 168, 170, 177-82 
Dostoevskaya, Marya Fyodorovna, 

Dostoevsky's mother, 5, 14, 16, 

Dostoevskaya, Varvara (Varenka), 

Dostoevsky's sister, see Kare- 

pina, Varvara 
Dostoeskaya, Vera, Dostoevsky's sis- 
ter, see Ivanova, Vera 
Dostoevsky, Andrey, Dostoevsky's 

brother, 3, 9, 11, 15, 19, 34-5. 





Dostoevsky, Fyodor (Fedya), Dosto- 

evsky's son, 280, 334-5, 398 
Dostoevsky, Fyodor Mikhailovich 

— anti-intellectualism, 25, 189,212-3, 

292, 408-9 

— apotheosis, 365-8 

— autobiographic elements in his 

writings, 98, 100-1, 103-4, 144, 
162, 187, 195, 220, 232, 267, 269, 
290, 292, 322, 357, 387, 408 

— calling, sense of his, 28, 34, 36, 88, 

103, 113, 268, 279, 304, 333, 357, 
371, 391, 405 

— Catholicism, animus against, 257, 

278, 292, 314, 340, 342, 379-80 

— character and personality, 3, 12, 

15, 18, 22, 29, 33, 48, 56, 82, 
88, 106, 111, 113, 118, 140, 147, 
157, 167, 182, 215, 230, 237, 
281, 309, 329, 336-7, 350-1, 
388, 408-9 

— convict, 105-19 

— death, 396-99 

— dreams, 223, 275-6, 284, 308, 


— dreams in his fiction, 212, 296, 

325-6, 385-6,